Many of our most insightful writers here insist on making one inane comment over and over – that the VP nominee “doesn’t change any votes” because “people vote for the top of the ticket.” How absurd.
Of course the VP nominee changes votes! That’s why people watched the debate. That’s why it’s reported and blogged on at length. That’s why there was alarm in Republican circles over Palin’s poor showing in the Couric interviews, and glee over her strong showing last night.
It is true that relatively few voters (though by no means none) go into the booth thinking, “I like Obama over McCain, but I am voting for McCain because I like Palin more.” But for virtually all voters the VP nominee is part of the large backdrop that fills the canvas, and makes the top of the ticket seem better or worse. To say the VP won’t change votes is like saying a movie score won’t change people’s appreciation of the movie – we know that that is simply not true, the movie score is vitally important… even if few viewers walk out going, “Man, if it weren’t for the score, I wouldn’t have liked that movie.”
Does the VP nominee affect votes? Of course she does. How can anyone with a moment’s reflection say with a straight face that Sarah Palin hasn’t made a difference in this race? Or that the race would look the same if Obama had chosen, oh, let’s say Dick Armey as his running mate. (Now that would be a trip – I don’t know how the race would look, but it wouldn’t look the same). This would be a different race if McCain had chosen Romney or Huckabee or Hutchinson. How many people here vowed they wouldn’t back McCain if he chose a pro-choice VP?
Of all the things that go on in a campaign, there are very few, if any, that do more to change votes than the VP nominee.