I’ve been holding off discussing the Sarah Palin nomination, but briefly, here goes.
I think she needs to be framed as a “northern extremist” as soon as possible. She’ll survive all the rest, I think, and the rugged corruption fighting, tax-cutting, church going, family loving, snowmobile riding, frontier image they have planned for her will be attractive if it isn’t transformed into something most people would view as an interesting character, certainly, but much too extreme in far too many ways to be elected to the second highest office in the land. She has plenty of extreme views, so it's not a false characterization, and with the AIP connections, the earmarks, commitment to oil companies, the bridge to nowhere problem, abortion views, her views on regulation, social programs, banning books, taxes, and so on - not to mention the ethics questions that still need to be answered - it should be possible to highlight how unconventional she is in ways that extend beyond eating moose.
If it were my choice, I’d drop the whole discussion about qualifications – why fight about how close Alaska is to Russia or how many square feet or people or whatever there are in Alaska versus elsewhere when, to me, that isn’t the main issue and takes away from the time that could be used to expose her extreme political views. Just because she does not live in a giant city or populous state, is a woman, has kids, or whatever, does not automatically lead to the conclusion that she has no knowledge of world affairs, or that she lacks the other knowledge and personal traits she needs to be effective if she has to step in and serve as president on day one, and an adamant stance that she is not qualified before giving her a chance to answer questions about these things is a mistake. I can certainly imagine someone with no time at all in elected office that I would view as very qualified (though I think it’s entirely fair to point out that that there are important open questions that, once answered, may lead to the conclusion that she is not ready, and I also think the right null hypothesis for any candidate is that they are not ready unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary).
I think the campaign more generally needs to avoid "chasing the rabbit" and stay focused on the issues people care about, jobs, health care, things like that. The selection process puts McCain's judgment in play as well, though I wonder how much staying power that issue will have (how the selection was made is independent of the attributes of his selection, this is about what we learn from how the choice was made). As part of the discussion of the issues, they should target her extreme views until that’s the topic of discussion where she is concerned. Focus on her extreme beliefs, and the decisions she is likely to make because of them and stay on message day and night. The rest is a distraction from defining her in a way that causes people to be wary of what she might do if she is given the chance.
On that front, there's still a lot to find out, I have no idea how she feels about healthcare reform, Afghanistan, and many, many other important issues, but what I have learned so far is that her policies are like her moose-eating personality – far out of the mainstream – and the sooner that message gets out, the better.