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The Two Conventions' Common Thread: Redemption

The Clintons -- Bill in particular -- stage-managed their redemption at last week's Democratic convention. Their coyness regarding Obama, dramatically magnified by a news-ravenous press, made each of their speeches into nail-biters and turned the final wholeheartedness of their support (wait, hadn't Hillary already endorsed Obama? whatever) into a pleasant surprise, a catharsis, a joyous bit of "closure" instead of another predictable convention routine. The whole thing was brilliant. I think there's another guy out there who's playing the same game.

We've been assuming that McCain's Sarah Palin pick was so out-of-the-blue because it was a last-minute choice, a (perhaps grudging) acceptance on McCain's part that his moderate buddies Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman just wouldn't fly. But what if McCain was calculatedly setting up his own redemption narrative, too? Lowered expectations followed by a happy shock -- could the Maverick who crapped all over James Dobson and dotes on Lieberman really be coming back home? -- is playing no small part in the wildly enthusiastic evangelical response to McCain's veep pick. Read Jonathan Martin's great Politico story on Palin's "electrification" of the base for evidence. Here's a snippet:

“There is an electricity going through the social conservative crowd right now; it’s unbelievable,” said James Muffett, head of Michigan’s Citizens for Traditional Values, who had met with McCain in the weeks leading up to his selection of a running mate. “Especially given all the set-ups and head fakes — it’s amazing. A lot of people were sure he was going to show his more moderate colors.” 

... “I’ve talked to two prominent social conservative leaders in the past 24 hours who told me they had previously not planned to attend the convention, but were now coming to Minneapolis after the Palin pick,” wrote Ralph Reed, a Christian conservative leader who has tangled with McCain, in an e-mail. "I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a veep pick energize the grass roots like this.”
... Muffett, who was talking on his cell phone from a church outing at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park, likened McCain’s campaign to the world-record 17 roller coasters that dot the park on the banks of Lake Erie. “Oh my gosh, holy moly,” he said. “He floated the pro-abortion running mate, then there was his performance at the Saddleback debate, and then you had the Lieberman headfake and now this. Up and down, up and down.”

--Eve Fairbanks