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Sarah Palin: Gamble Big, Win Big?

John McCain’s vice presidential pick could shore up a shaky conservative base and swing states, according to USC professor Patrick James.

Patrick James of the USC College weighs the pros and cons of John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“Palin is a very high-risk selection, but with a potentially huge payoff,” James says. “On the one hand, she could blow up on the campaign trail due to her lack of experience in national-level politics. On the other hand, Palin offers huge advantages: As a right-wing conservative, she helps to shore up the shaky base that listens to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other significant figures.

“The hard right now can support McCain, and it is important that activists are willing to make the electoral ‘ground game’ work,” James adds.

“Palin may even appeal to angry Clinton voters who would prefer to vote for a female candidate — even if she is utterly different than Clinton in belief system,” says James. “If that happens sufficiently, McCain might even win in Michigan and other states that normally would be projected to go the other way.

“Palin’s nomination also takes the ‘historic candidacy’ argument away from Obama — i.e., one party has an African American on the ticket and the other a woman.”

Patrick James is professor of International Relations in the USC College and director of USC’s Center for International Studies. He is an expert on American foreign policy and U.S. politics.
Contact him at (213) 821-4114 or

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Sarah Palin: Gamble Big, Win Big?

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