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Could McCain's Extremist Running Mate, Palin, Help Obama?

Sen. Barack Obama is enjoying some of his highest numbers so far in the daily presidential tracking polls I frequently cite. Gallup has him up by 8 points today. Rasmussen by 5.

The question is whether this is a result of Obama's convention bounce, or Sen. John McCain's seemingly, shall we say, adventurous selection of an extremist running mate. Forget all the strikes against Gov. Sarah Palin--her now-renowned family troubles, her connections to Republican lobbyists, her ardent desire to slaughter animals ("Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and John McCain's vice presidential pick, is an enthusiastic hunter who has proposed legislation and cash incentives to encourage aerial wolf gunning, the controversial practice of shooting wolves from an aircraft."), and her widely-criticized appearance on a radio talk show ("The governor's appearance on KWHL's "The Bob and Mark Show" last week is plain and simple one of the most unprofessional, childish, and inexcusable performances I've ever seen from a politician.").

My concern is what impact the selection of Palin has on the performance of the Republican ticket among voters. Clearly she has accomplished what McCain could not: energizing Karl Rove's far right Christian evangelical base (as some people would call it, the Republican wing of the Republican Party). I initially thought choosing her was a stroke of brilliance by the McCain camp as she would serve to woo some of the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters into the Republican fold--the independent soccer moms, working class voters and so on.

But in the intervening five days, so much has come out about her extreme political positions (on choice, on states rights, on hunting, on lobbying) it's difficult if not impossible to say if her promise to be a "servant of the heart", her unusual parenting style, her description of our soldiers' task in Iraq are helping or hurting her with this key demographic or not.

I like this analysis by the Globe & Mail:

"If there's one demographic group that holds the key to this election, it would be working-class white women. Mr. McCain calculated that the untested Ms. Palin, mother of five with a reputation for feistiness, would help nail down the social conservatives and impress working-class women. He nailed down the social conservatives with Ms. Palin's appointment. Working-class white women will be a harder crowd to impress."

Hang on to your baseball caps, folks. This is going to be a wild ride. Your thoughts, please?

By Bonnie Erbe

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