Monday, September 08, 2008

Why Palin? Why not Hoeven?

My initial reaction to the selection of Palin was anything but enthusiastic, but decidedly not dismissive. Over time and after her selection speech, I started to drink the kool-aid on her merits. Not her policy merits, mind you which she is obviously lacking in, but in her political merits.

But for all her faults, I never really bought the line that this was a pure vote-grab to the XX chromosome-holders. Yes, it was a benefit of her selection, but I saw it as more of a windfall then a motivation. This TNR piece makes the case that influential conservatives were rattling the trees for her selection well before we knew what the general election picture would look like (indeed, even going back to 2007 when we were certain McCain would not be the Republican nominee). In fact if you looked at her positions without any reference to her gender or residence, she's about as ideal a candidate as one could imagine. To paraphrase Triumph, she looks like she was created in a lab from parts from lesser conservatives. She's as much a vote-grab to the right as she is to women.

But then came John Hoeven. He is, by some measures, the most popular governor in the country. He's the longest-tenured sitting governor int he country (eight years). He is a former CEO of a bank (a state-owned bank at that, which in light of the current GSE takeover seems pretty relevant). On the issues he is pretty near or spot on the RNC platform. He is from a small, Western state, so that's a wash. But it's a swing state so that's a point. He's been on the national radar for at least a couple years because the RNC (even going up to the White House) leaned on him heavily to run against Kent Conrad for his Senate seat.

Running mate selection is at its most basic, a study in opportunity costs. There is always a potentially less bad selection to be made, but of course their are many different margins and angles which do not always point in the same direction. Hoeven may not even be that great a candidate, but my suspicion is that the McCain camp didn't cast a wide and deep net because obvious alternates with just as many positives and probably fewer negatives exist.

I'm starting to think politicians may actually be self-serving...

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