I can't say I'm all that surprised by John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) as his runningmate. At first glance - and this will be negated if bad scandals come out - the choice is a very smart one, so smart, in fact, that, as an Obama supporter, it scares me.
Here's four reasons why this is a pretty smart choice - and for progressives, I think its a good idea that we look at these factors as we head into the final stretch of the campaign:
1. Putting a woman on the ticket is McCain's best hope to peel off some disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. I'm not saying it's going to work all that well, as I don't think most women simply vote for women, regardless of their positions on issues. But if McCain really does have a chance to win over Clinton supporters, picking Palin is as good a shot as any to try to do that.
2. Palin comes from an energy state, and specifically, an oil and gas state. With Democrats' pathetically (yet predictably) tepid behavior on the drilling issue, the GOP senses an opportunity to exploit it, and you can bet Palin will be making the drilling case, with first-person narratives and anecdotes.
3. It will be difficult - though not impossible - for the Obama campaign to make an experience argument against Palin. Even though Palin is probably the most inexperienced candidate for vice president in contemporary American history, the Republicans have spent months attacking Obama's supposed lack of experience. So when gnats like Rahm Emanuel issue silly, over-the-top press releases about Palin's career, they re-open an experience debate that John McCain probably wants to have with Obama.
4. As the Nation's Chris Hayes reports, Palin is a die-hard right-winger who could help McCain solidify the Republican base.
Again, all of these assets could be negated by things that come out about Palin's career and/or gaffes she makes on the campaign trail. I'm sure hoping that's what happens, and we'll need to really help examine and publicize the most odious parts of her record, as well as make the case that the experience of a 72-year-old candidate's VP choice is especially important. But we underestimate her - and the McCain operation - at our peril.
Finally, let's step back a moment, take off the partisan blinders, and celebrate. Palin's nomination all but guarantees that the United States will either have its first African American president or its first female vice-president. I desperately hope its the former, and not the latter - but the historic nature of either is something to be pretty happy about.