Oh Those Silly Pundits

The chattering class is always good for a laugh. Look what one of them said earlier this year: But really, John McCain is going to ...
by | August 29, 2008

The chattering class is always good for a laugh. Look what one of them said earlier this year:

But really, John McCain is going to pick someone who has presided over a state of 683,000 people for a mere 16 months as the potential leader of the world's lone superpower? The most popular mayor in the history of Austin, TX (population 710,000) wouldn't even warrant a mention in the veepstakes. (In fairness to Palin, she does have additional executive experience as the former mayor of Wasilla, population 9,236.)

Palin's qualifications would be the subject of intense scrutiny. Any kind of foreign policy flub, such as mixing up the Shiites and the Sunnis, would cause serious problems for the ticket.

Oh wait. That was me.

I guess I expected McCain to be more averse to a risky pick. Palin could be worse than Dan Quayle, but she could also be a stroke of genius. Who really knows?

On that post, by the way, a commenter had a pretty good comeback:

Our governor can distinguish between Tlingits, Haidas, Tsimshians, Athabaskans, Aleuts, Yupiks and Inupiaqs. I suspect she would have no problem with Shiites and Sunnis.

Still, I'm not quite ready to give up on my argument, which was that voters expect more experience from a vice president than from a president. Here's what I wrote:

Now here's where you might ask: What about Barack Obama? Aren't these governors qualified to be vice president, if he's qualified to be president after just winning his U.S. Senate seat in 2004?

Perhaps, but that doesn't mean voters would perceive them to be qualified. In some sense, the experience expected of presidential candidates is less than what's expected of running mates.

Presidential candidates have to spend two years attending debates, giving speeches, holding press conferences and managing a campaign. That process gives voters ample opportunity to judge a candidate's readiness for the job, regardless of what is on his or her resumé.

Since they only participate in that process for a few months, running mates require a leap of faith, both from the voters and the candidates who select them. The leap is smaller if the running mate has a long record of experience.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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