Columns, Opinion

RILEY: McCain’s Palin predicament

Last week, I remarked on the relative civility of the presidential campaign. Well, now I have to insert my foot into my mouth Joe Biden style. With less than a month to go until the election, the gloves are finally coming off.’
Oh wait, I almost forgot. Before I continue, I just want to give a shout out to my dad’s fourth grade class in Shrewsbury, Mass. You guys get extra credit for reading this column. I’ve always wanted to do that, but I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to include it in a respected student newspaper. Oh well, if we don’t mind Sarah Palin giving shout outs during a vice presidential debate, then I guess you can do it anywhere. I have always said that debates should be more like ‘The Price is Right.’
Anyways, back to business. Most people can agree that Sarah Palin exceeded expectations with her feisty debate performance against Sen. Biden. (Can I call him Joe?) However, that really isn’t saying a whole lot since the bar for her was set so low. As long as she was speaking in complete sentences and giving us a wink every now and then, she would have shocked the media with her debating skills.’
Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, the debate wasn’t quite the game changer it desperately needed. No matter how much you promise to ‘maverick-ify’ Washington, McCain cannot possibly win the change argument against Obama.’
In early September after the Republican National Convention, many were saying that Sarah Palin had saved this campaign. McCain had closed the enthusiasm gap as the selection of Palin had electrified conservatives and the GOP ticket became much more attractive ‘-‘- literally. But now, Sarah Palin has arguably doomed this campaign.’
As the economy continues to spiral downward, businessman Mitt Romney must be looking pretty good to Republicans. By putting Sarah Palin on the ticket, McCain has taken away the one argument that could have resulted in a Republican victory in November: At the end of the day, who do you trust? Even though the media have been scrutinizing Obama for more than a year since he’s started his campaign, you still have to scratch your head and wonder how the heck this junior senator got here in the first place. Are we really prepared to make this new kid on the block the most powerful man in the world?
Now you see where the Palin problem comes into play. As America watches President Bush shirk away from the economic crisis, we realize just how bad we need a true leader in the White House. McCain should be able to capitalize on this realization, but the woman who had catapulted him to a brief lead in the polls is now holding him back. Sarah Palin is a gifted politician and may even make a fine vice president. I happen to think that placing a Washington outsider in a high government position might be good for the country. After all, the Washington insiders aren’t exactly doing a great job at the moment.’
But at the end of the day, a vice president must be ready to take over at any time. Palin can charm voters with her folksy attitude, but she is having an extremely difficult time convincing America that she can lead this country in both the economy and foreign affairs.’
Therefore, McCain is forced to resort to plan B: smear Obama’s character. The other day, we heard Palin say that Obama ‘pals around with terrorists’ and she wondered why his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright ‘isn’t discussed more.” They are sure to bring up these points along with Obama’s ties to some shady characters from Chicago in the next few weeks more often than Hillary Clinton dared to in the primaries. In April, McCain said, ‘There’s no place for this kind of campaigning’ but when you find yourself down five to 10 points in the polls this late in the game, something has to give.’
Obama isn’t exactly taking the high road as McCain throws everything he’s got against his Democratic opponent. In retaliation, he is trying to bring up a McCain scandal that happened almost 20 years ago, in which McCain was cleared of any wrongdoing. Sounds like politics as usual to me, but I suppose Obama feels the need to fight fire with fire.
If the final phase of this campaign is going to be filled with character assassination attempts, then there’s no telling what will happen. I don’t know if this attempt by McCain to distract voters from the economy will succeed or fail.’ Even those in the media more tightly plugged into this race than Joe Biden’s hair is plugged into his head can’t say for sure. We’ll know soon enough, that’s for darn sure.

Neal Riley, a freshman in the College of Communication, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at

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