Gov. Sarah Palin may well draw larger crowds than Sen. John McCain ever did, and the McCain campaign plans to take advantage: they're filling a calendar that will find her deployed to places where McCain can't go, places where McCain's gone and fallen flat, and places where social conservatives need an enthusiasm boost.The campaign disclosed plans for both McCain and Obama to visit a conservative exurb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the economically distressed suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and the conservative bastion of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Requests for Palin have poured in from Republican-leaning client groups. The National Association of Home Builders want Palin to speak at their fall board meeting in San Diego. Social conservatives hope she shows up at "values voter" conferences in Washington.
If this sounds to you like a "rally the base" strategy, then we're on the same page.
Maybe there's something to this tack. We have, after all, seen quite a few polls over the summer that show a considerable "enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats this year. If Palin can get the base a boost by traveling to conservative areas and talking to conservative groups, and in the process help McCain lock down the support of Republican voters, there's probably some utility in that.
But there are two other angles to consider. First, there are plenty of other voters the McCain/Palin campaign is apparently going to ignore. In a tough year for the GOP, that's a very risky approach. As Yglesias noted, "There's no question that people who are very committed to extreme cultural conservatism and don't otherwise care about governing -- i.e., the conservative base -- like Palin a lot. But normally 'good news' for your ticket consists of people who might not vote for you coming around to your point of view, not just to your fans clapping louder."
And second, I just have to ask, are conservative Republicans really this gullible? A week ago, they didn't know or care about Sarah Palin, and John McCain was desperately trying to figure out how to get away with a pro-choice running mate. Now, far-right activists are thrilled with the McCain campaign?
I have to admit, I didn't realize the Republican base was such a cheap date.