In an op-ed in the FT a few days ago, James Carville argues that the Palin nom was a crucial misstep for the Republicans. He argues (correctly) that the one aspect of the GOP brand that the Dems have found impregnable was that they are the party of “American security” — the combination of national defence, foreign policy, and patriotism. McCain fits that bill, he claims, but the choice of Palin is a “gimmick” that risks gambling away the party’s surest advantage over Democrats.
To a certain extent, Carville is right. Palin really is out of her depth on that file — on the Russia/NATO question in particular, she seems totally clueless. But as Megan McArdle points out, the gamble is paying off so far. McCain’s intrade numbers are soaring.
How to explain this? Some non-exclusive possibilities:
1. Carville’s piece is simply spin, AKA “wishful thinking”.
2. There is more to the GOP brand than “American security”.
3. The McCain ticket is so well-balanced that he more than makes up for her deficiencies, and vice-versa.
4. McCain’s numbers will drop after the VP debates reveal just how out of her league Palin is.
5. Carville is right — there is a short-term boost from the Palin pick, and the damage to the GOP brand will only emerge down the line.
I give no credibility to (2). I suspect there’s a touch of (1) at work, a lot of (3), and about a 1/6 chance of (5) becoming a problem. That’s the probability I assign to the following combination of events: McCain winning and then dying in office, and America being faced with a serious FP crisis under President Palin.
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