"Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!", the cry that has gone down in television history that perfectly sums up the popular and beautiful character Marcia Brady in the 1970s show The Brady Bunch. Jan Brady is responsible for the famous line, with which she expresses her frustration at the attention her older sister receives. A similar scene may be playing out between John McCain, who may now be the "Jan" of the 2008 American Presidential election, and Sarah Palin, who easily slides into the role of Marcia.
Isn't a popular Sarah Palin good for John McCain, though? After all, she sure does help shore up his weaknesses. The problem is that she very well may be shoring up those weakness too well.
It's no secret that John McCain's strength does not lie in his oratory skill. Whereas Barack Obama capped off the 2008 Democratic Convention with the best speech of the entire four days, McCain's acceptance speech was out-shined by several others that had been made in the days prior. The true star of the Republican convention? Sarah Palin. "Palin! Palin! Palin!", one might hear McCain grumbling in the background.
Palin is a stronger public speaker than McCain, but that's not her only strength. The Republican base wasn't exactly energized about McCain's nomination. Questions remained about his true loyalties and worries about his "maverick" tendencies ran through the minds of the most conservative republicans. In fact, leading up to the announcement of his running-mate, some Republicans feared that McCain would choose a pro-choice veep! Tom Ridge was supposedly on his short list, and McCain has said some very kind words about him. However, when McCain finally announced the other half of his ticket, the world was surprised at the choice of Sarah Palin. Who was she? Isn't she a bit inexperienced? Is this a ploy to attract disgruntled die-hard Hillary fans?
What the public and the Republicans would find out over the next few days, aside from a couple of controversies, was that Palin is a die-hard conservative. No abortion rights, creationism in schools, abstinence-only education, no gay marriage rights, NRA member, doesn't believe global warming is man-made, and she supports the death penalty. With a list of positions like that, Palin has been able to do what McCain could not: she really energized the base of the Republican party. Again, echos of "Palin! Palin! Palin!" can be heard in the distance.
John McCain may in fact be thrilled with his running-mate, but it's very important for America, conservatives, and liberals to realize that Barack Obama is not running against her, nor she for President. John McCain is the person who will be stepping into the role of Commander-in-Chief if he can get elected, and it will be he who must make the speeches and decisions that only the President can make.
John McCain will not have Sarah Palin's fire and oratory skill to back him up when he faces Barack Obama in the Presidential Debates. Barack Obama will never have to address Sarah Palin if he doesn't want to, and in many ways she may be a more difficult opponent to fight than McCain himself. McCain has been in Washington for 26 years with no real history of great reform or change, he really doesn't have the credibility to sell himself as the agent of change when he's had so much time to do something already. This, of course, works in the favor of Barack Obama, who often cites McCain's voting record and time in Washington as criticisms. Sarah Palin, although far less experienced than John McCain, may be able to sell the "maverick", "reformer", or "shaker-upper" more effectively than he ever could, thus leveling the playing field against Obama. Again, though, she is not running for President of the United States. "Palin, Palin, Palin...", the chant goes on.
So what does John McCain risk by letting Sarah Palin take over the spotlight in the campaign? The problem is, most Americans will not be voting for the Vice President alone, Americans tend to look at the top of the ticket as the most important. John McCain, if he allows Palin to overshadow the fact that he is running for the highest office and she isn't, may do much more for her career as a politician than his. She is a young, fiery, talented Republican, and one might say that she is being held back by John McCain by being forced to share the spotlight. She's held back by his long, nearly uneventful service in Washington. She's held back because in every speech she gives, she has to spend more time trying to promote McCain than she can promoting herself. I don't expect Sarah Palin to overtly step on McCain's toes too much in this campaign, but I do suspect she has at least one eye firmly looking toward her own political future. I also suspect that many Republicans are far more excited about the prospect of "Palin for President, 2012" than "McCain for 2008". "Palin, Palin, Palin", indeed.