The Experience Argument

By choosing Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, John McCain seems to have undermined a key tenet of his campaign so far, that Barack Obama is not experienced enough to be President.

It’s a classic argument really.  It was made against Bill Clinton when he ran in 1992.  After all, he had only been Governor of a small Southern state.

Then Gov. George W. Bush also took flak for a lack of national security experience – that’s why, in part, he chose Dick Cheney to be his Vice President.

As I wrote in my original blog post on Friday about the Palin choice, it seemed to me that McCain has decided to go back to his roots as a political reformer.  Certainly Palin has that on her resume.

But some like conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer saw no reason to change, arguing the “experience” argument was working well against Obama.

“The McCain campaign is reveling in the fact that Palin is a game changer. But why a game changer when you’ve been gaining? To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful “Is he ready to lead” line of attack seems near suicidal,” Krauthammer wrote.

Democrats jumped on the pick to say that now, any McCain attack on Obama over national security experience was a lost cause.

“Certainly the choice of Palin puts to rest any argument about inexperience on the Democratic team,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who added, “while Palin is a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling.”

Could Palin turn out to be John McCain’s Dan Quayle?  Of course that’s a possibility.  But I am very intrigued by how this is going to proceed.

As I wrote on Friday, I really think she could be a hit in much of the country, especially in less urban areas of both Red and Blue states.

It’s obvious that John McCain wants to become McCain the Reform candidate again.  And certainly Palin is someone who fits the bill on that.

You could have a pretty good argument about who is more experienced between Obama and Palin.  He’s a Senator – there’s only 100 of them.  But she’s a Governor – there’s only 50.

Ultimately, how she does on the campaign trail will determine whether she boosts McCain’s campaign or dooms it.

I still don’t think Joe Biden really gave Barack Obama much of a boost in terms of campaign momentum.  He was the logical pick.

McCain obviously didn’t want to make the logical pick, one reason that he flirted so much with the choice of Joe Lieberman.

What I really like about this choice is that Palin is not a Washington insider by any means.  She hasn’t spent time sucking up to the “important people” in DC.

When someone like that emerges on the national scene, they are immediately labeled a threat, especially by members of the other party.  Just look at how Republicans have dealt with Obama along those lines.

The “experience” argument can work both ways.  It’s not clear if McCain gave up one campaign advantage in order to win another when it comes to “reform.”

One thing is for sure, this election is going to be historic.

Americans will either pick a black man to be President for the first time, or they will choose a woman to be Vice President for the first time.

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.  And it is going to give voters a lot to think about in the next nine weeks.