- McCain's best avenue of attack -- Obama is not experienced enough to be trusted with high office -- has been blunted to the point of uselessness. Something big will have to happen before we get to candidates attacking one another on that subject again; I think that particular chess game is now stalemated. If Democrats attack Palin's experience, Republicans can attack Obama's. I think that steers us back to arguing policy preferences (a good thing) and personalities (a bad thing).
- She has managed to suck all the air out of the room on both sides of the aisle. No one is talking about anything but Sarah Palin -- unless they're talking about her family. She's drawn out a tremendous amount of ugliness from both sides of the aisle, although I must exonerate the national candidates and their campaigns from this nastiness.
- The presence of a newly-elected Governor of a small (in terms of popularion) state highlights the fact that aside from Gov. Palin, no one else nominated for national office has any executive experience at all. This makes me fidgety because executives use a different set of skills than legislators -- extensive, Biden-like knowledge about policy is not relevant to one's skills as an administrator.*
- As I thought, women voters have been quick to say that a candidate's gender is not enough to attract their votes. Hillary Clinton voters are much more concerned with Palin's stance on issues than they are with the fact that she is female. This, by the way, is as it should be.
- The religious right, formerly the weakest part of McCain's electoral coalition, is really on board with him now. They recognize in Gov. Palin one of their own. This pushes McCain's campaign towards the same strategy, forming the same coalition, as the two Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
I thought 2004 was a particularly dismal and insipid election while it was going on and in fact, 2000 wasn't really all that exciting, either, at least not until after Election Day. Looking back on it, 1996 wasn't really all that interesting, either, since Bob Dole was such a weak opponent to Bill Clinton. We haven't had a really interesting election, with a real old-versus-new sort of debate about ideas, since 1992. This was shaping up to be a really interesting season, but that appears to not be the way things are going right now.
So yes, Palin has proven to be a game-changer. She's made an unpredictable, new sort of game look more like the games we're familiar with from election cycles past. Some changes are guardedly good for McCain, some are obviously bad.
* That's not to say that a President should be an ignoramus about policy; the President should have an ample understanding of all of the areas of public policy that the Federal government attends to. But the President should be a policy generalist rather than a specialist; there is a threshold of detail beyond which knowledge and decision-making must necessarily be delegated to subordinates.