I think the Obama campaign has made a big mistake going negative on Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin so quickly. Firstly its obvious to everyone why the Palin nomination might pan out to be a Really Dumb Idea – we don’t need the Democrats to spell it out to us. Secondly we saw during the democratic primary that large numbers of the US political press (Exhibit A: Chris ‘Tweety Bird’ Matthews pictured here) are openly hostile towards the notion of a female executive: they’ll be watching Palin like hawks and as soon as she makes her inevitable mistakes they’ll swoop: the Obama campaign wants to be a LONG way away from the mysogenistic rat-fucking that will then ensue.
If Palin turns out to be a formidible campaigner then the Dems can always sic Hilary on her to rend her limb from limb; this is a pretty unlikely scenario though – chances are Palin will manage to hurt her campaign a lot more than the Dems ever could and it’ll look better for them if they’re seen to be nurturing this delicate flower of caucasian womanhood, not trampling all over her.
UPDATE: Well that didn’t take long. Left-wing blogs in the US are ‘swiftboating’ Mrs Palin already.
Palin and her husband recently had their fifth child; they knew early in the pregnancy that it had Down syndrome (three copies of the 21st chromosome or fragments thereof) but she carried the child to term anyway. This makes her enormously attractive to pro-life religious voters and in Karl Rove’s America the trick is to attack your opponent where they are percieved to be strong. Democratic supporters have started a whispering campaign suggesting that the child was actually born to Palins teenage daughter and that Mr and Mrs Palin adopted the child and engaged in a cover-up.
Of course, none of this is anybody’s business except the Palin family – its the exact same tactic that right-wing opponents of Barack Obama have tried to do to the democratic nominee with their absurd ‘stealth muslim’ birth certificate conspiracy theories.
Interestingly enough this is similar to the smear tactics used against John McCain in the Republican primary back in 2000. McCain and his wife adopted a young girl from Bangladesh. The Bush campaign published pictures of McCain with the child and suggested that he had fathered a black daughter out of wedlock. McCain was winning prior to the smear but shortly afterwards lost the nomiation to George W Bush.
Everybody openly deplores these kind of tactics but they are the most consistently successful way to win elections. People pretend not to be influenced by negative campaigning but all the research shows that it is the single most effective technique in the modern political toolbox, so expect to see a lot more of this kind of dirt flung around, both in New Zealand and in the US.