The MSM could respond to the choice of Gov. Palin in several ways. It could focus on her history of fighting her own party on issues of corruption and her history of fighting large oil companies in a state where large oil companies own a sizable part of the economy. Or they could focus on her cultural background as a pro-lifer who is comfortable with guns. Most articles I’ve read since the selection describes Gov. Palin as the “pro-gun, pro-life conservative hockey mom” or some such. It could just as easily be the “popular reformist Governor of Alaska.” Neither is incorrect.
But Gov. Palin spent her time in office focused on pipelines, energy, ending corruption and kicking out the “good old boys” network that focused on pork and pay-to-play efforts. Gov. Palin is pro-life and supports gun rights, but those have not dominated her administration nor her policy efforts. The fact that the media focuses on abortion and guns says more about the media than it does about Gov. Palin.
I do not find it hard to understand why Sen. McCain liked and chose Gov. Palin. Gov. Palin is a reformer at heart. She is sincere about her focus on rooting out corruption, and she is willing to take on her own party (for example, by running against the sitting GOP GOV) in order to tackle the old system. She put her state above her party just as McCain and Lieberman have put the nation above their respective parties. When the list narrowed to Lieberman and Palin, it seems McCain decided to play it safe with the pro-life GOPer rather than take the even riskier proposition of inviting a fight at the convention over a pro-choice DEM.
Because Gov. Palin focuses on reform and because Sen. McCain chose her based on those reformist efforts, I expected the MSM to talk about her efforts to fight against large oil companies and to take out a corrupt GOV. Instead, they caricatured her as a female Jesse Helms focused on big guns and abortion. And so far, the McCain and Palin camps are losing this media fight. The talk is about her social views (which excite the base but won’t flip many swing voters) and not her leadership on reform and against corruption.
Last night (Tuesday), the speakers who talked about Gov. Palin focused on her reform efforts. I believe this is an indication that the McCain and Palin camps will push to change the debate. Gov. Palin could use her speech to counter the talk about her family and her social views. She could acknowledge Bristol’s fiance in the crowd and receive a thunderous, supportive applause from the crowd. She could compare her experience to Obama. But I don’t think she will.
Gov. Palin should talk about her time as Governor. She should talk about why she ran against Gov. Murkowski (R). She should talk about why the state GOP still doesn’t like her while she has 80% approval ratings. She should talk about her negotiations on the natural gas pipeline that went against the wishes of large oil companies. She should describe how she sold the new state airplane that her predecessor purchased. She should paint the picture of a Governor, a reformer, and an anti-pork activist.
Gov. Palin wins tonight if the talking heads are discussing what she has done, whether she was poised, and what her views are on issues. She loses if the talking heads spend the whole evening talking about Levi and Bristol. Ideally, Gov. Palin plays the role Sen. Gore did; she reinforces the overarching theme of the campaign to put “country first” by embracing a reformer with a record. At worst, she distracts the campaign and allows the debate to be about her family and social views which have little to do with her record as Governor or her credentials as a VP nominee.