2008-09-05 / View From Here

The View From Here . . .

By Bob Morgan, Jr.

As this is written, the Republican convention has gotten off to a tentative start, with much of the first day's festivities cancelled or put on hold by Hurricane Gustav, which thankfully did not prove to be as devastating as feared. In light of the perception that President Bush's administration bungled Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (in truth, all levels of government failed), the GOP was no doubt prudent to focus on a message of unity during the storm rather than politics as usual.

Nevertheless, there is no shortage of political topics to write about. As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this space are solely my own.

The Democratic convention in Denver was basically a successful event. The split in the party between supporters of Hillary Clinton and those of Barack Obama was mostly smoothed over by strong addresses from both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Senator Obama's speech, while not as lyrical or inspirational as some of his earlier campaign oratory, was a well delivered list of reasons to support his candidacy, while drawing contrasts to Senator McCain. The adulatory throngs at Invesco Field indicate the depth of the enthusiasm of many of Mr. Obama's supporters.

While the selection of Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate before the convention did not move the polls appreciably, Mr. Obama rather clearly did receive a bump in his support after the convention. As of the day this is written, the Real Clear Politics average of current polls has Mr. Obama up by 6 points, compared to 1-2 before the convention.

Of course, the Republicans had an important event of their own last week, the unveiling of their surprise vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, the 44 year old governor of Alaska. Ms. Palin, who has occupied that office since December 2006, is considered a reformer, having ousted a sitting governor of her own party in a primary before defeating a well known Democrat in the general election. She also became an opponent of the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in her state, despite its support by fellow Republicans. While her political beliefs are staunchly conservative, she is something of a colorful character, as she is a former beauty pageant contestant, as well as a hunter and fisher, and a self-described hockey mom. She is the mother of five children, including an infant recently born with Down's Syndrome.

While Ms. Palin's selection was well received, it does raise some complications. Before the Democratic convention, the Republicans appeared to be scoring some points by labeling Mr. Obama "not ready to lead" in their commercials, basically underscoring his lack of experience. Now they are about to choose an individual without much experience who potentially is one 72-year old heartbeat away from the Presidency. Obviously, there is a difference between a presidential and vice presidential nomination, and Ms. Palin has executive experience, but on balance her presence does undercut the experience argument.

Second, of course, a relatively obscure candidate brings the possibility of unknown revelations. So far, Mr. Palin has had to deal with news that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant, a topic that the Obama camp has wisely decided to avoid. The McCain camp has to hope that it has done a good job of vetting Ms. Palin and that more serious issues will not emerge.

Now it is the turn of the McCain-Palin team to make their case at the Republican convention. Mr. McCain is a well known figure, widely admired by many Americans. His task will be to answer the strong challenge laid down by Mr. Obama.

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