For all the Republicans who are exulting that there’s now a “rock star” on the GOP ticket (and all the Democrats who are freaking out about it), there is one minor detail that’s worth considering in the days and months ahead. And that is that the “rock star” on the Democratic ticket is actually the person who is running for president, while the “rock star” on the GOP ticket… isn’t. At the top of the GOP ticket is a 72-year-old man who just gave a mediocre speech that served primarily as an attempt to suggest that a fellow who’s spent two and half decades in Washington and voted with the extremely unpopular current president 90% of the time somehow represents change. That’s the guy going up against the Democratic rock star.
And to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Democratic rock star knows this perfectly well. This is why yesterday when reporters tried to get Obama to react to Palin’s attacks on him, his reponse was to say, more or less, “whatever,” and to note his presidential opposition was McCain, not Palin. This is also why outside of the hothouse atmosphere of a political convention, Palin’s sniping at Obama is likely not to hit the radar screens, because when all is said and done, she’s the VP candidate, and the press is covering a presidential election, not a vice-presidential one.
Obama’s already signaled he’s not going to bother with her; she’ll be shopped out to Biden — or even better, Hilary Clinton, who I would expect is privately fuming that the McCain and the GOP think so little of her positions and personality that they expect her supporters to be swayed by someone who holds antithetical political positions, simply because that person’s got fallopian tubes. If the GOP wanted to keep the Clintons on the sidelines this election, this was not the way to do it.
Beyond this we’ll see what value being a “rock star” really brings to the table, which I suspect is rather less than what people suppose. The GOPers ecstatic over their new star might remember that a) Obama’s rock star status hasn’t kept this election from being reasonably close so far, and b) that Palin’s “rock star” status is not yet two days old, based on a speech written for a generic GOP VP candidate with some personal touches bolted on. Two and a half days ago people were wondering if she would have left the ticket by today. It’s fair to say Palin’s been up and been down. And starting today she and Joe Biden begin their descent into the shadowy netherworld of VP candidates on the campaign trail, to be largely ignored save for the occasional snipe or screw-up. It’s nice to be a “rock star” politician, but let’s just say I’m not 100% convinced the “rock star” shine is all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when at the end of the day you’re the political equivalent of the opening act.
And at the end of the proverbial day, this election is the guys who are the headliners: about McCain and Obama, and their policies and plans, or lack thereof. One of these guys is a rock star, and the other isn’t — and to be honest, I hope that doesn’t matter, either. What should matter, and what I hope will matter, is the substance of the two candidates. Substance is not what people come to “rock stars” for. But it should be what we look for in a president.