A Look Into The GOP VP Vetting Process Despite remaining questions, Sarah Palin is helping McCain reach his objective, Republican strategist Dan Schnur says. He breaks down why he thinks it will take a lot more than a pregnancy to hurt the McCain-Palin ticket.
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A Look Into The GOP VP Vetting Process

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A Look Into The GOP VP Vetting Process

A Look Into The GOP VP Vetting Process

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, how a middle school principal in Seattle visited all 600 of his students at home this summer.

BRAND: But first, more on the Republican campaign and John McCain's choice for running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Dan Schnur is with us again, and he was McCain's communications director back in 2000. He now teachers at USC here in Los Angeles. Hi, Dan.

Mr. DAN SCHNUR (Political Science, USC, Los Angeles): Hey, how are you, Madeleine?

BRAND: Fine, thanks. Well, we spoke last on Friday, when Sarah Palin was first introduced. Since then, some potentially damaging news has come out, of course, her daughter's pregnancy, her shifting support for federal earmarks, and the bridge to nowhere. How are you feeling today, on Tuesday? Are you as enthusiastic?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, I hope that the response that I offered Friday was more analysis than advocacy. I guess what I would say a few days later is, there is still a lot of open questions about Sarah Palin. And as we talked about on Friday, Senator McCain took a big risk in naming someone so unknown to the ticket and hope (unintelligible) would appear to be two political objectives. One he is clearly looking to rally the party's securities base, and it seems he has done that. Second, he's hoping to reach out - use her to help reach out to some of Senator Clinton's supporters and other working class voters. I think it is still an open question whether these revelations help, hurt, or don't matter in that regard.

BRAND: OK. So what we're hearing from the convention, though, is there's a lot of support for his choice, that people are rallying around the choice, at least at the convention, and among the party faithful. And so from that perspective, has it achieved at least one of those objectives, which is rallying the base?

Mr. SCHNUR: There's no question it has achieved that first objective. McCain, even though he's been gradually shoring up support among conservatives, that support to a large degree has seemed very dutiful. And now, there is much more enthusiasm, it seems, both gauged by what's going on in St. Paul, but also by his fundraising and organizing efforts. But the real key as to whether Sarah Palin was the right choice or not is how he reaches out to those working-class voters - more accurately, how she helps him do it.

Neither Senator McCain himself or, for that matter, Senator Obama has been particularly successful reaching these voters the way Senator Clinton did in the spring. I think, just as Barack Obama selected Joe Biden in (unintelligible) because of Biden's ability to talk to these - this key voting bloc. That was one of the main considerations for Senator McCain's selection, but it's really only been three or four days since she was selected, and I think it's worth giving it at least a week to figure out whether the pick was a smart one or not.

BRAND: Well, how does McCain then counter the idea that this was kind of a reckless decision and not a great window into his decision making ability? How does he say to America, look, I can make good decisions, and this wasn't a reckless choice?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, it's almost a cliche, and I take that back, it is a cliche, that the selection of a running mate tells us more about the candidate who makes the selection than about the running mate him or herself. And what McCain's advisors are working very very hard to do is make it clear that just because the process was private, if not secret, that doesn't mean it was hasty.

The downside of a secret process is it robs voters and the media a chance to do some vetting. Had Sarah Palin been on the national political scene for five, 10, 15 years, we'd know a lot more about her now, rather than forming our opinions on a real time basis. Similarly, had her name surfaced as a more traditional type of trial balloon earlier this summer, once again, we wouldn't be learning so much about her this quickly.

BRAND: You are an expert in communication strategy. If you were on the McCain campaign today, what would you tell the candidate in terms of framing this issue to convince voters, A, that this was not a reckless decision, and, B, it wasn't a cynical decision in order to garner votes and not really thinking ahead to her ability to run the country should something happen to McCain.

Mr. SCHNUR: They're doing their best to make their case for her. The one casualty has been their effort to frame her as a reformer, ironically, in the McCain mould. And that's not to say that people have decided that she is not a true reformer, but because of this other information that's become public, that part of her political persona has been largely obscured.

Even as voters sift through what they think about these more personal revelations, McCain and Palin have to figure out how to get this discussion back on the aspects of her biography they want to be emphasizing, (unintelligible) particularly taken her reputation as a reformer in Alaska, taking on the entrenched Republican Party interests up there.

And once again, there's no indication that voters have decided that that's not accurate. They just haven't paid much attention that yet because there's so much other information about her on other fronts that is becoming public.

BRAND: Dan, it's good to talk to you again.

Mr. SCHNUR: Good talking to you, too.

BRAND: That's Republican political strategist, Dan Schnur.

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