McCain's selection of 1-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin throws a monkey wrench into the electoral works. While the Democratic Party just spent the last week talking about "Unity," the simple fact of the matter is that the only person that drew louder cheers than Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama. The themes of feminism and female empowerment were thick on the ground in Denver this week and the Democrats are well aware that – unity or otherwise – the 18,000,000 Americans who supported Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination are a vulnerable voting block.
Palin puts the women's vote up for grabs, but just as Obama's choice of Biden effectively cuts off attacks on McCain's age, the selection of Palin makes it difficult for McCain to meaningfully attack Obama's lack of experience. One creaky, thready, dusty heart-beat away from the Presidency, Palin constitutes a choice that is more exploitative than political. While she may serve to help secure Alaska and perhaps even Ted Stevens' tight re-election race, the GOP's decision effectively focuses the race on one issue: abortion.
From the point of view of the Clinton voting block, Palin is very weak on a woman's right to choose.
A staunch pro-lifer, Palin will have trouble gaining traction with the Hillary voters on that issue. As Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood said at the Democratic National Convention:
a woman voting for John McCain is alike a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.
McCain's abortion stance makes the issue unattractive to the Republicans, particularly as a major component of the campaign. The Arizona Senator's frequent policy shifts on the issue of Roe v Wade have landed him - most recently - on a hard-liner position: opposing abortion in all cases, even those of rape and incest.
It is a position that Democrats will be attacking in the coming months in an attempt to remind Clinton voters of the issues behind the candidate. McCain, in contrast, will try to dodge the issue as best he can. Answering Democratic critiques is unlikely to win him much of the women's vote that he so clearly needs – some would say panders to – with his selection of Palin.
Unfortunately for Senator Obama, the pro-life/pro-choice debate tends to bring out the worst in people: Democrats and Republicans. The graphic imagery, aggressive demeanor, and vicious rhetoric of the pro-lifers drew impassioned and often angry responses from the Democratic delegates and guests. Now, with the gloves off, Senator Obama will find his "high-road" campaign much harder to maintain.
67 days to go...