Who Will McCain Pick? And Does It Matter?


The heavy faves for McCain's VP pick include Mitt Romney and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. And possibly Mike Huckabee. All of whom would consolidate the idea that John McCain is a tired, worn-out politician capable of making just as dull and uninteresting and noxious a choice as Barack Obama did.

Somebody such as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be a lot more interesting and fun, as it would show the Republicans are at least in the final decades of the 20th century. Palin, who may be flying into Dayton today (crap, I just realized I'm flying out of Dayton this morning!), is no great shakes from a libertarian view, but would at least put a different face on the mildly pro-market, strongly anti-gay GOP. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would provide lots of fun, too, and probably discombobulate easy splits based on identity politics.

The VP matters less than we think. For every Dan Quayle that probably cost the first President Bush a point or two, most simply don't matter. So why not pick someone that will at least give us pixel-stained wretches to write about. In other words, Pawlenty? Puh-lease.

One sobering dataset to continue as we slide into a Labor Day Weekend that is being ruined by politics (something always ruins this weekend, isn't it?). The Harris Poll has been asked Americans their self-declared party and ideological affiliations since the early 1970s. The results are here.

In 2007, 26 percent called themselves Republicans, 35 percent called themselves Dems, and 23 percent called themselves Independents. In 1969, those figures were 32, 49, and 19. When it came to describing their political philosophy, in 2007 35 percent called themselves cons, 37 percent moderate, and 19 percent liberal. In 1968, those numbers were 37 percent, 31 percent, and 17 percent.

What this means now is not self-evident, but there is a consistency to American voter self-identification that is simultaneously comforting and appalling. And suggests that the race for president (though not necessarily for Congress) will stay tight for a long time to come, as it has been for going on 20 years now.