Inside the Capitol

Monday, September 01, 2008

9-3 Conventions Have Some New Twists

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Both presidential candidates now have chosen their running mates. Party leaders from both sides hail their selections as bold, daring, inspired and generally perfect. And the opposition can't believe how inappropriate, risky and disastrous the choices were.
That's to be expected. As this column has frequently mentioned, politics is just a game -- a game with sometimes severe consequences but nonetheless a game with rules and predictability.
How much does one ever learn when listening to a candidate or a surrogate? You know it is just going to be a recitation of talking points you've heard over and over.
But occasionally an interesting twist gets thrown in. Sen. Barack Obama's selection of Sen. Joe Biden as his vice-presidential running mate meant a provocative talker with the capability of bringing both risk and excitement to the game.
It also meant Sen. John McCain was going to have to pick someone who could counter Biden's intelligence, experience and wit.
But McCain countered with a highly popular, young maverick reformer, who also is a female governor and from the religious right. The test with Gov. Sarah Palin, of Alaska, is how quick a study she will be in learning the national and international issues she will have to master.
Regardless, McCain has chosen a running mate who will keep voters awake and even provide some excitement. Both Obama and McCain took a risk with an unexpected trick play in their vice-presidential selections.
And we could be the beneficiaries in terms of entertainment. Regardless, despite predictions to the contrary, the world will not go to heck in a hand basket no matter which ticket wins.
When Richardson's campaign announced that the governor had received a telephone call saying he would not be the vice-presidential choice, the state Republican party countered with a release claiming Obama had recognized Richardson's many shortcomings.
Had the announcement been that Richardson would be the veep pick, do you think that GOP announcement would have been that Obama had recognized Richardson's many strengths? That's not the way the game is played.
The changing fortunes of Hillary Clinton have illustrated an interesting game. A year ago, when she was the presumptive nominee, the GOP machine churned out hate-Hillary releases by the score. By December, it was time for her Democrat opponents to take over. When it became evident Clinton had lost, both sides suddenly began courting her and her 18 million loyal voters.
Republicans criticized Clinton for her shrill voice during the campaign. Expect Democrats return the favor with Gov. Palin, whose voice sounds several notes higher.
McCain's selection of Palin contained some strokes of genius. He endeared himself to independents and many Democrats during his 2000 run by being a maverick. When he realized he couldn't win a GOP primary that way, he cozied up to the Republican right.
Now McCain needs to be a maverick again and Palin helps him do it while still being more conservative than he is on many issues important to Republicans.
And then there is the Republican National Convention, blown off course by a hurricane and maybe two. That's a twist we've never seen. It may be a curse, but maybe a blessing too.
With a totally revised agenda, Republicans won't have to equal the exuberance of the Democratic convention and they won't have to deal with the unpopularity of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
It gives Republicans the opportunity to redeem themselves for the lack of response to Katrina and to show leadership and concern for country rather than politics.
During the opportunities Republicans have had to demonstrate their enthusiasm, they've tried very hard. But it isn't easy for Republicans who, by nature, are conditioned to stay in their seats, not talk to neighbors and to form straight lines.
Republicans do better at action. This is their opportunity.
WED, 9-03-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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