I didn't see the camera pan to the Clintons last night when Obama gave his speech. The Democratic party must have decided to put Obama centerstage and to move on from the 90s. Not so fast - the Sarah Palin pick means that Hillary Clinton's response (and attacks) will be more critical than ever in shaping what happens this fall.
Barack Obama delivered a preeminently political speech, not an oratorical performance, last night. He may have written most of the speech himself, but it was clear that he had taken the advice from pollsters and consultants to heart. He systematically went down a checklist of what he had to do: specificy what he meant by change, attack the Republicans, address social cultural issues, speak to independents, and most importantly, address the attacks that have come his way. He erred on the side of meat rather than bones in his speech so that the celebrity charge would lose some wind. Some fellow partisans may have wanted more oratory, but Obama did not think he had the luxury of thinking of the history books right now. He has to win first.
There was a new line of attack today that we might hear a little more of - the idea that it's not that John McCain doesn't care, it's that he allegedly doesn't get it.
John McCain came to his decision to pick Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate only recently - this decision will surprise even Republican insiders. This is change not only that we can believe in, but, as was intended, change that confounded everyone (as a Joe Lieberman pick would have been), showing the campaign's willingness and ability to think outside of the box and on their feet. In this sense, the maverick is back. But note that the Palin is a through and through conservative: pro-life, pro-guns, pro-drilling, anti-gay marriage. This pick doesn't look like a concerted bid for the independent voter more than it is a bait for the soccer moms.
This decision will no doubt annoy some female Republican senators who were passed over. The Obama camp should jump on this: picking an inexperienced person purely for her gender is everything Hillary Clinton would have fought against. Is it wise to elect a ticket in which Palin will only be a heartbeat away from the presidency? The McCain campaign saw the immense groundswell of support that still exists among women for Hillary Clinton, and saw an opportunity they could not pass. And so throughout the Democratic Convention, the Republicans overtly and unabashedly tried to court the Clinton supporters. The question remains however, whether or not Hillary Clinton supporters will go for any woman (especially a pro-life one), or if their support is non-transferable. Nevertheless, picking Palin this soon after Obama's acceptance speech also reveals the aggressiveness of Team McCain. They would not allow Obama's momentum to carry into the weekend without some Republican headlines.