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John McCain’s campaign is now confirming that his running
mate will be Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, according to practically every news
organization covering the campaign.

Surprised? I am. I hadn’t seen her name, even among the
long-shots, until Thursday. And if you were reading this blog, you know that I
thought he’d pick Mitt Romney.

If Barack Obama’s acceptance speech was attacking from a
defensive position, then the apt military metaphor here may be a surprise counterattack.

By making his announcement on the day after the Democratic
convention ended, and by having the discipline to keep Palin’s name secret
until the last minute, the McCain camp may have softened up Obama’s bounce by cutting
into morning-after coverage on TV. And morning TV news is fast supplanting the
evening variety for viewership and influence on the national conversation.

He also targeted a potential weakness for Obama. Picking
Palin may not convince a flood of Democratic and independent women to vote for
McCain, but it certainly will remind them that Hillary Clinton isn’t on the
Democratic ticket. We’ll have a letter to the editor in Saturday’s paper from a
woman calling for write-in votes for Hillary. And reporters at the convention
didn’t have much trouble finding angry Clinton
supporters, even in the minutes after her speech on Tuesday.

But in the longer term, McCain’s choice may be a risky
gambit.

He’ll have a tougher time questioning Obama’s experience. Palin
is in just her second year as governor of a state with a small population, and
five years ago she was mayor of Wasilla, a city with fewer than 6,000 residents.
Those aren’t great credentials for becoming commander in chief, and with McCain
turning 72 today, his age will continue to be an issue for the
Democrats.

Palin has built a reputation for integrity but by telling
that story, she’ll draw attention to the ongoing political corruption scandal
in Alaska, which may serve as a reminder of
the Jack Abramoff scandal that did so much damage to Republicans
in Washington.

McCain likes to surprise people, and he certainly did here.
It will be fascinating to see how this changes the dynamics of both campaigns
in the coming weeks.

What do you think?

— Jim Sweeney