ST. PAUL, Minn. | John McCain, with his no-substitute-for-victory commitment, emerged from the Republican National Convention on Thursday at the helm of a party surprisingly united behind a throaty, aggressive foreign policy and a domestic policy rooted in the common-sense values of Sarah Palin.
It was the Alaska governor’s presence on the ticket as much as anything else that sealed the deal for the Republican Party’s conservative voter base - for now.
“Sarah Palin offers what social and religious conservatives see as a welcome contrast with Barack Obama and Joe Biden,” Hoover Institution scholar and former Pepperdine University President David Davenport told The Washington Times. “Her small-town, common-sense family values will resonate with the Republican base and bring some much-needed fire to the McCain campaign.”
Republican analysts were saying, virtually until the announcement that Mrs. Palin would be on the ticket, that the party could not run on a base-turnout election strategy. They said too many voters had drifted away from the party in recent years - disappointed with the Republican-approved federal spending spree, the sex and money scandals, and the ill-conceived, hugely expensive and mismanaged wars.
Since their 2006 electoral setbacks, Republicans had been experiencing a crisis of confidence - until the convention here.
“People were worried not only were we going to lose in November, we were facing another period like the 1974 post-Watergate, hard GOP times,” said former White House domestic-policy adviser Gary Bauer.
That brought Republicans face to face with what ethicist and political analyst Merrill Matthews calls their “redefining moment” at their nominating convention here.
“The party faithful know they don’t like who they - or their elected representatives - have become for the past eight, and maybe 16, years,” he said. “But they weren’t entirely sure how to move forward. John McCain has been trying to point the way for a while, but he needed a boost.”
Two things appear to have helped Republicans redefine and unite their party - for the time being at least:
First, the emergence of an Obama-Biden Democratic ticket that frightens and therefore helps unite economic, national-defense, social and religious conservatives - the whole constituency shooting match when it comes to the Republican base.