A week after John McCain announced Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Republican campaign strategy seems to have regressed to that of the 2004 elections, focusing more on the Democracrs characters rather than actual issues.
Also, the Palin "phenomenon" appears to be distracting Democrats from the main point of their campaign: strengthening the McCain-Bush connection.
After Palin's speech at the GOP Convention, we can now say that McCain's vice president selection was one of the smartest decisions he could have made, not only with respect to the Republican agenda but also regarding the nature and dynamics of the two campaigns.
She should enjoy embracing the legacy of a double-standard seen in Sen. Clinton's campaign against Obama. Anyone who attacks Palin could be accused of sexism while any attacks she levies against others will only further prove her self-confidence and readiness for the job. Criticizing Palin thus just enhances her position on McCain's ticket. Should Democrats question her past, personal characteristics, flaws, or level of experience, Rapublicans can fire back with similar questions about Obama. This will only divert voters' attention away from the major issues at hand, specifically the similarities between McCain's and Bush's policies.
It's fair to say that Palin's effect on the Republican Party is similar to Obama's impact on the Democrats. Like Obama, she appeals to the average American. She is ambitious, hardworking, family-oriented, tough, aggressive, a capable speaker, and a Washington outsider.
She also compensates McCain's poor communication skills. Despite having a thin resume and meager national experience, she has shown that with a good script, she can be a capable attack dog.
However, unlike Obama who has worked in national and international politics for years, Palin's experience lies only in local politics. Her education is average, and her sarcasm is mean. Yet, her core values match those of conservative Republicans, giving the more moderate McCain a connection to these voters.
While it remains unclear whether Palin is the right person for the job, it is apparent that during her brief time on the national stage, she has managed to shift the direction of the presidential campaign from targeting substantial issues to targeting personal characters.
Palin, however, has a long way to go. Only by responding intelligently to questions posed by analysts and opponents will she prove that she is ready for the job and not just on the Republican ticket to lure small town Americans and disenchanted Clinton supporters. By questioning Palin's qualifications, Democrats are just wasting precious time and energy
Republicans have shown in past few elections that they are masters of effective campaigning. Only by attacking McCain's and Bush's policies can Democrats put Palin in a corner and make her prove herself.
The ball is now in the Democrats court.