Over the past 60 years of presidential elections “experience” has proven a tenuous foothold for those trying to discredit an opponent.
For instance Richard Nixon was only 39 years of age when Ike put him on the ticket in 1952. The Democrats, who already hated Nixon because of his take down of Alger Hiss and Helen Gahagan Douglas, pounced on Nixon’s inexperience and alleged unsuitability for the Vice-Presidency.
Four years later the Stevenson campaign again flogged the same horse. In both ’52 and ’56 the nation didn’t buy it. Even given Dwight Eisenhower’s known health problems, in 1956 the people chose the GOP ticket in another, larger, landslide.In 1960 the shoe was on the other foot as the GOP tried to paint John Kennedy as inexperienced and a risky choice. By a very narrow margin (and by the grace of Mayor Daley and LBJ) the country again discounted experience.
In 1976 the country narrowly elected an inexperienced Jimmy Carter.
In 1980 the nation easily chose Ronald Reagan who the Democrats tried to portray as risky and dangerous.
In 1992 we Republicans developed apoplexy as we tried to convince voters that Bill Clinton was too inexperienced.
In 2000 the media made much of George W. Bush’s inexperience in foreign policy vs. Al Gore’s supposed aptitude.
Now in 2008 the issue of experience is back again, first aimed at Barack Obama and now trained squarely on Sarah Palin.
It won’t work this time either because the American people have the good sense to look past “experience” when the word is used only to denote years in office and/or time spent in and around the “puzzle palaces on the Potomac”.
This is why the McCain campaign moved away from the “experience” theme. It would not have worked. They used it over the summer and the Obama campaign likely assumed they would keep singing that tune through Election Day.
But the McCain people were using “experience” as a feint, and had other plans ready to roll out at the right moment. The plan has worked to near perfection as the Obama campaign’s befuddled reaction to the inspired pick of Mrs. Palin has been incredibly stupid and amateurish.
Imagine if Barack Obama had chosen a 72 year old former POW as his running mate. Would the McCain campaign have reacted by saying “This is a terrible choice because he’s too old and just being a former POW is no reason to elect someone VP”?
That would be pretty dumb, right? Yet that is exactly how the Democrats have reacted to Sarah Palin.
Presidential politics is a game primarily of grasping the public’s mood and then managing impressions and expectations. The national mood this year is “change”. Not Barack Obama per se, but change from the last eight years. Many voters in the middle and even on the right are looking for a new start, not “experience”.
Since the 2004 Democratic convention, “change” has been Obama’s chief selling point, and yet he chose 36 year Washington insider Joe Biden as his running mate. That was a terrible decision and maybe the one that ultimately will cost him the election. That one badly mangled executive decision cut most of the ground from under Obama that he had spent four years building up. Now McCain-Palin is deftly finishing the job.
With “change” having been neutralized and co-opted by McCain-Palin, the focus of voters has moved to other areas. Issues such as policy choices, qualifications, and even…….experience.
On each of those battlefields McCain-Palin trounces Obama-Biden. Americans are far to the right of the Democratic ticket, while Palin attracts the GOP base and McCain is considered “just right” by many independents.
John McCain clearly is the best qualified of any of the four people on the two tickets and Obama has increasingly failed to show that he’s made of the right stuff.
Finally, on experience, McCain-Palin has more of it and more of the right kind. While Biden has spent 36 years as a typical Washington politician, John McCain has shown many times that he is willing to upset the apple cart.
And yes, Sarah Palin has more creditable and useful experience than the Community Organizer in Chief does.
This election will be close and either side could win, but as of September 14, John McCain and Sarah Palin are in an excellent position to bring home a win on November 4.