ANALYSIS: Palin biggest VP draw since Teddy Roosevelt

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sarah Palin may become the first vice-presidential nominee to win the White House for the top of the ticket.

As John McCain’s running mate, she almost certainly is shaping up to be the only politician in either party to be an important vote draw for a presidential ticket - and not just a do-no-harm appendage - since Republican vice-presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt put ho-hum, top-of-the ticket William McKinley over the top in 1900.

That may have been the only time anyone had overturned the conventional wisdom that no one votes for vice president.

John F. Kennedy could not have won Texas and, therefore, the electoral vote in 1960 without Lyndon B. Johnson, according to popular wisdom. But that was a single-state effect.

Polls now confirm that Mrs. Palin’s appeal extends beyond regional, gender and even partisan bounds.

There are some objective and a lot of subjective reasons to make that case for Mrs. Palin being the ticket to the Oval Office for Mr. McCain, who was never the most popular politician in his own party or among its conservative base, which suddenly has come alive with enthusiasm over the elevation of Mrs. Palin.

Objectively, she certainly rates being called a sensation. More likely voters responded more positively to her nomination acceptance speech on Sept. 3 than they did to Mr. McCain’s the next night or to Barack Obama’s and Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s at the Democratic National Convention at the end of August.

Now, in mid-September, all evidence points to her building steam, not losing it.

“Where Palin may be having a real impact is with Republican enthusiasm,” Gallup poll senior editor Lydia Saad told The Washington Times. “We saw that skyrocket right after the convention, and this has benefited McCain in terms of likely voters.”

When Mr. McCain faked a pass to liberal independent Sen. Joe Lieberman for running mate and then handed the ball to Mrs. Palin - an evangelical well to the right of Mr. McCain on economic policy and no less a defense hawk - he bowled over the 168-member Republican National Committee, state party chairmen and elected national committeemen and women.

Enthralled with the choice of Mrs. Palin, the 140 or so members who initially did not back Mr. McCain for the nomination suddenly went from saying privately that at least he’s better than the alternative (Mr. Obama) to bursting with enthusiasm for the vice-presidential nominee (Mrs. Palin).

Religious conservatives, meeting privately in Minneapolis days before the Republican National Convention, similarly went from support for Mr. McCain based on a fear of an Obama-appointed federal judiciary to jumping for joy at the sudden opportunity to work overtime for the election of Mrs. Palin and her running mate. She, as far as they were concerned, is one of them.

Ditto for those conservative and Republican activists at the national convention whose special concerns focused on economic policy. While they tended to see Mr. McCain as iffy on taxes and oil drilling and a bit too green on the environment, they, too, embraced Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin as one of them.

Most national defense advocates of the foreign intervention persuasion were always pleased with Mr. McCain but found their pleasure doubled with Mrs. Palin, who has an Israeli flag in her governor’s office and said the United States would be wrong to second-guess whatever Israel does against Iran.

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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