Cross-Over Appeal: Does it matter, and does the McCain-Palin ticket have it?
It seems that everyone wants to talk about which candidate reaches out to Independents and who can lure voters away from the other party. Karl Rove won—yes, Bush won—two Presidential campaigns by firing up the base, but will that still work? I'm not enough of an election wonk to know the answer, but let's assume pulling away people who might vote for your opponent is a good strategy. Can McCain-Palin do that?
Once upon a time, John McCain was the Republican viewed as the best equipped to do just this. He wasn't as big a tax cutter as most Republicans and he's taken a stance on immigration that sends most Republicans into fits. And then there are the words "McCain-Feingold," which still sends shivers down the spines of conservatives. McCain used to be associated with leaving the reservation, which back before the "Bush's third term" nonsense, made him appealing to voters outside of the Republican faithful.
But something funny happened on the way to the White House, and McCain was suddenly being portrayed as a Bush crony. (Well, picking Sarah Palin is a Bush move—it shows real respect for a woman. Not that I'll-give-you-welfare-so-you-can-abort-your-baby-in-the-third-trimester respect, but Condi Rice, Karen Hughes, Elaine Chou, Margaret Spellings, etc. respect.) However, McCain may have shaken off that reputation by picking fellow maverick, Sarah Palin. Her career hasn't been long, but Palin has rooted out more corruption, even when it was in her own party, than most Democrats do in decades-long careers in Washington. That's supposed to be the sort of thing that appeals to Independents, if any one thing can be said to appeal to the vast differences among voters who fall under the umbrella "Independent."
But what about Democrats voting for McCain-Palin? Obviously, no one ever expected McCain to win the hardcore liberals who spout "Bush Lied, People Died" and think the UN is the greatest invention since Birkenstocks, but what about the Reagan Democrats? My experience has shown me that there are an awful lot of Democrats in the Rust Belt who only belong to the Democratic party primarily because of their union memberships. These people are frequently socially moderate to conservative, pro-gun, and pro-military. Can they be swayed by a smart woman who totes a gun, has belonged to a union, and is sending a son to Iraq? I think they just might, especially in states like Michigan and Minnesota where voters have become disenchanted with Democrats and Republicans have been making inroads. Whether or not it will help in a state like Ohio where the Republicans seems to be at their lowest point ever is another matter.
So I guess the answer to original question is maybe, maybe not. However, I can't believe that the addition of Palin won't help McCain with moderate Democrats and Independents. And if Karl Rove was right that motivating the base is most important, well, the base is definitely fired up, or as I heard one pundit put it, "The choice of Sarah Palin closes the enthusiasm gap between Obama and McCain."