Sara Palin changes the race considerably. She is by all accounts a decent woman, a principled pro-lifer, and a real conservative. The problem is that she’s running with a guy that is impulsive, difficult, anti-conservative, pro-immigration, and foolish on foreign policy. It’s hard to vote for McCain simply because he’s picked a solid running mate.
Further, she has been a conservative in a place where it’s easy to be conservative. How will she fare when accused of helping the rich, being in the pocket of “Big Oil,” racism, “hating the poor,” and all the other typical charges of the media against principled conservatives? Will she embrace McCain’s interventionist spirit which defines events in Georgia and Sudan as indistinguishable from those in Afghanistan or Mexico? So far, she appears already to have backed off from the charge she was a Buchananite in ’96, as if that were disqualifying. It reminds me of my ambivalence about Harriett Miers, who sounded decent enough, but didn’t appear too sharp and obviously had no stomach for the name-calling one must endure as a principled conservative. Further, any beef on her experience is kind of ridiculous considering Obama’s mediocre record and permanent candidate status in his two years in the Senate. Moreover, Palin’s actually cut spending, cleaned up corruption, and made executive decisions when she was not out hunting Caribou and winning beauty contests. This is more than Biden, Obama, and McCain can say for themselves.
McCain and Buchanan are about as far apart as two candidates could be in the Republican Party, and it is a bit of an idle hope that someone so young and devoid of a power base as Palin could turn McCain and DC in the right direction. The opposite appears far more likely.
Nonetheless, her addition is a great positive for the Republican Party and as a purely political matter has reinvigorated McCain’s hitherto listless campaign. Even if McCain loses, she would be well positioned in 2012 to lead the party back to its small government, self-reliant roots.