Senator John McCain not only hit a home run but a grand slam with his surprise selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee. With his brilliant move, Senator McCain changed the dynamic of the presidential race. Rather than the press focusing on Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech, all the talk today on the cable networks will be on McCain's decision.
Looking at both campaigns it's clear that McCain's campaign has Obama's campaign beat when it comes to competence. Obama's announcement was poorly handled. McCain's was a masterpiece.
But I was also reminded that McCain was once a Navy fighter pilot and that much of the strategy surrounding the pick reflects his military experience.
One of the keys to winning a war is to keep your enemy guessing what you're going to do next. In other words, misdirection and misinformation are among your best weapons. McCain pulled off one of the greatest media headfakes in recent political history. Even up until the announcement speculation was that either Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would be the pick. Either would have been okay but not able to create the firestorm of support that Palin's selection has created. McCain also did a terrific job of keeping a lid on the choice until the news of the pick would have the maximum possible effect. McCain understands the saying "loose lips sink ships" applies to politics as well as the military.
Another key to winning a war is to exploit your opponent's weaknesses. Barack Obama's biggest weakness is among women. By not picking Hillary Clinton as his VP, he snubbed the 18 million plus voters that cast ballots for her. Many of her supporters are women, These voters are ripe to be picked off by McCain. By nominating a woman, McCain has put those voters in play.
Finally, to win a war you have to be willing to take risks. Governor Palin is largely unknown outside Alaska where she enjoys an 80% approval rating. The McCain campaign will have to work to get her story out to the public. However, the timing of the announcement right before the start of the Republican convention allows McCain to control the narrative and allow the focus to be on his running mate for the next few days and blunts any bounce Senator Obama will have been able to gain from his convention.
Senator McCain has shown himself capable of leading this country. He's willing to take risks and do what is right. With this decision, he has changed the course of the entire campagin.