Where do things stand?
The Democrats had an incredibly successful convention. The storyline coming into the week was Democratic division -- going out it was Democratic unity and the strength of Senator Obama's speech. Thirty-eight million Americans watched Senator Obama Thursday night, shattering records for convention viewership. That enormous audience -- at home and in Invesco Field -- heard an incredibly compelling case for change in November. In a relaxed, conversational style that interspersed poetry and prose, Senator Obama delineated what he would do as President in specific terms, weaved his own biography into the fabric of America's, and laid out an appropriate contrast with Senator McCain. There is nothing that the Obama campaign could have done more, or differently, than they did this past week.
The Palin pick was an unexpected move to shake the race up. If the McCain campaign had been satisfied by the current trajectory of the campaign, Romney or Pawlenty would have been tapped. Instead McCain went for a higher risk/higher reward choice, in the hopes that the history making move will help re-establish his maverick identity and appeal to voters excited about the idea of a woman on the ticket. In exchange, McCain ceded the experience argument against Obama and brought questions about his own health and age into play. Governor Palin has a compelling biography but has never been in the national spotlight. Much will depend on her actual performance -- she better know who the President of Georgia is in time for the first journalist's pop quiz -- and on what the media's vetters and the Obama campaign find when they arrive in Alaska.
Going into the Republican convention Senator McCain is behind by as much as ten points. Set to the backdrop of hurricane bearing down on New Orleans and kicked off by the most unpopular President and Vice-President in history, will the GOP convention be successful enough to make up that ground? I'm betting no. For all the ink spilled on the Clintons this past week, relatively little has been said about the enormous downside of having President Bush and Vice-President Cheney speak Monday night. Neither President Bush nor Vice-President Cheney have much credibility to attack Senator Obama and any praise of McCain will only taint the recipient. One of Senator McCain's primary goals next week will be to distance himself from President Bush -- that goal will not be easily accomplished with the unpopular President and Vice-President kicking off the festivities.
The Palin pick changes the storyline away from Senator's magnificent speech and might limit Senator Obama's convention bump somewhat, but it doesn't change the underlying fundamentals of the race: This is still Senator Obama's campaign to lose.