Are you experienced?

I still don't think that the experience issue in general is a winning one for Barack Obama. In fact, questions about Sarah Palin's experience could ...
by | September 3, 2008

I still don't think that the experience issue in general is a winning one for Barack Obama. In fact, questions about Sarah Palin's experience could quickly become a trap of sorts.

I'm not necessarily following the line of reasoning that Palin has more executive experience than Obama. Obama suggets that running his own campaign gives him more executive experience than Palin. That's all subject to debate and I'm emphatically not picking sides. I am saying, however, that it is a debate Obama might be wise to avoid, for I think he can win a Pyrrhic victory at best.

In the big picture, I think the question "Who has more experience, Obama or Palin?" is necessarily a losing one for Obama. Even if he "wins" the argument in the public eye, so what? He's got more experience than a relatively inexperienced Vice Presidential candidate? That doesn't sound like a strong point in favor of Obama as President.

The question alone puts Obama's credentials back under the microscope--it wasn't so long ago that Obama himself was climbing uphill on the experience issue, even claiming his "life experience" as a piece of his resume--and in a context that is hardly flattering. That isn't to diminish Palin's experience or accomplishments, but only to point out that being more or less experienced than Sarah Palin isn't the same thing as being more or less experienced than Abraham Lincoln.

Besides, the experience questions will likely become moot over time. Both Jay Cost at HorseRaceBlog and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight have made the smart point that her newness more than her inexperience is the real cause célèbre and that how she performs on the campaign trail and in her debate with Joe Biden will finally determine whether voters think she's ready.

Obama's poised performance in the primary campaign did much to blunt Hillary Clinton's argument that he wasn't fit for the job, whereas Dan Quayle--who had, to be fair, more raw experience than either Obama or Palin--proved just that, raw. If voters consider her inexperienced come November, it will probably owe more to her performance over the next two months than to her resume up to now.

One caveat: I'm talking about the sheer experience argument here, not how well the respective candidates did their work. There is an obvious difference between having done a job and having done a great job.

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Will Wilson  |  Former Correspondent
willbwilson@gmail.com  | 

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