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Is Palin A Risky Move For McCain?


That's NPR's Martin Kaste. We're joined now by Republican strategist Dan Schnur. And Dan, you heard Martin say just then that Sarah Palin is a social conservative. So, that must warm the hearts of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

DAN SCHNUR: It's certainly does. Polls showed McCain has been making a steady progress towards shoring up his support among the party base, but this is the kind of thing that will make a lot their support less grudging and more genuine.

BRAND: And actually get them out to vote instead of staying home.

Mr. SCHNUR: Precisely.

BRAND: Right.

Mr. SCHNUR: Now, that, you know, the flip side of that is a strong social conservative doesn't necessarily send the best message to a lot of swing voters, but it looks like McCain and his advisers have decided that there's a particular group of swing voters, in particular, working class voters, and particularly female working class voters who represented the core of Hillary Clinton's support in the primaries who Obama's had a difficult time reaching out to. I think they feel that even if some social moderate independents' interests are not particularly happy with this election. It does help them reach out to these working class voters, who tend to be a little bit more culturally conservative along with their economic populism.

BRAND: So, he's trying to win over that - this affected group that we've been talking about a lot this week who wanted Hillary Clinton as the nominee and are not happy with Barack Obama as the nominee. But making this choice, I mean, a lot of people are saying this is a big gamble, I mean, this woman, Sarah Palin has even less experience than Barack Obama and that's something that had been one of their - one of McCain's major talking points until now.

Mr. SCHNUR: Yeah. I suspect that's not going to be in the talking points for McCain's people from this point forward. But I go a step further than that and predict to you that by Monday morning, every Republican who as of last night thought experience was the most critical component of a presidential resume, will decide that it's not. And every Democrat who as of last night was saying that experience in elected offices overrated, will all of a sudden decide that's it's of critical importance. So such as the flexibility of partisan politics.

BRAND: Alright. What about the vice presidential debates? We're going to see someone, Joe Biden, who has had extensive experience coming up against Sarah Palin, who hasn't. And what do you expect there? How will that change the tenor and tone and content of those debates?

Mr. SCHNUR: There's a couple of things that strike me about those debates. The first is, that given the evidence gap in experience between Biden and Palin, the McCain and his advisers seem to have decided that taking a one night hit, the night of the debate, is a sacrifice they're willing to make, given Palin's other potential political benefits.

The other thing, which is going to be very interesting to watch, is Biden is a very, very strong debater but he's also somewhat who is very, very aggressive. And McCain's people might be thinking that Biden will have to temper some of that aggressiveness to avoid looking as if he's bullying a female opponent.

BRAND: Right. And something we saw in the primary, the Democratic primary that Hillary Clinton complained of, right?

Mr. Mr. SCHNUR: Precisely.

BRAND: Well, let's talk more about her pros. What is she going to bring to the ticket?

Mr. Mr. SCHNUR: Palin does a couple of things. As we talked about earlier in terms of targeting voters, she's able to, number one, motivate the base in a way that's going to be helpful to McCain. But second, while she's not necessarily going to be able to reach out to all swing voters, those Hillary supporters which McCain's people seemed to have decided are critical to the outcome of the selection, are voters that they believe she can target.

I have received already seven or 80 mails this morning telling me that Palin drives to work every morning in her Jetta. That will - Jetta will be the most famous car in America, my guess is, over the next eight weeks. And so, just as Joe Biden the other night talked about how he takes the train home every night from Washington to Wilmington, Delaware. Palin hopefully - at least hopefully according to the McCain people - will be able to connect with these voters in a much more effective way than either McCain or Obama has been able to to this point.

BRAND: Well, I think one thing we can all agree on is how exciting this campaign has been so far and how unexpected it's been so far. In one side, you've got an African-American nominee. On the other side, you've got a woman as a potential vice president. What do you make of it?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, no question there's plenty of history to go around. I think even the most stalwart Republicans agreed this week that watching Obama accepting the nomination of his party was a truly moving and historic event. John McCain obviously can't create as much history as Obama did this week, but he has decided to create some of his own. So, you're right, it's already been an unexpected campaign and there's a lot of wild cards to sort out going forward.

BRAND: Thank you, Dan.

Mr. SCHNUR: Thank you.

BRAND: Dan Schnur, Republican strategist. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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