John McCain is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party. For his running mate, he has chosen Sarah Palin, a governor with little political experience, and this may be his downfall, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.
The crowning of Barak Obama is over, and now is the time for Republican John McCain to step into the ring. For the senior senator from Arizona, his party's convention is all about one thing: distinguishing himself from President George W. Bush.
McCain can't afford to give the impression that his presidency would be identical to Bush's, with a different face. If he does, he will never be able to pull the middle moderates and liberals to his side. At the same time, however, the Vietnam Vet can't alienate those Bush devotees, which are sure to still exist within the party, causing them to pull their support.
Hurricane Gustav has come to help McCain with this balancing act. Because of the looming crisis, Bush has been forced to cancel his trip to the convention, which, incidentally, had only been scheduled a short while ago. This is good for McCain, because he is striving to be seen as an honest broker and he and Bush honestly never liked each other anyway.
More important for McCain than the support of the White House is the selection of a running mate. Whether or not 44-year-old Sarah Palin was a good choice remains to be seen. Palin can certainly bring women and, as a conservative moralist, the religious right to the ballot box for McCain.
At the same time, however, the governor from Alaska is so far removed from world politics that you have to ask yourself: What would happen if she actually had to take over for a geriatric McCain? As a former journalist, Palin does bring some media experience with her, but the economic experience is lacking.
And herein lies a second problem for the McCain campaign. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans believe that it’s best to let the economy take care of itself. Low taxes and the market’s self-healing ability should regulate it, even if the American economy has long been incurring a structural imbalance on a global scale. Who other than the white, male, middleclass homeowner is going to vote for McCain?
But it is just this clientele, who has been hardest hit by the economic downturn. McCain is going to have to come up with a convincing answer to this at the convention. Resolute stances on foreign policy issues, like the recent crisis between Russian and Georgia, are one thing. Economic recipes to fight a recession are something else completely.
As former President Bill Clinton once fittingly said during his campaign against Bush Sr.: It’s the economy, stupid. The economy makes the difference. This could prove to be true once again this year come Nov. 4.
Daniel Scheschkewitz is a reporter for DW-RADIO and Deutsche Welle's former Washington correspondent. (mrm)