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Monday, September 01, 2008

Comparing Palin and Obama based on their respective experience in political campaigns

Since the announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain's choice for the GOP vice presidential nomination, the Obama camp has been stressing that his experience is superior to Gov. Palin's on grounds that he's been trained and tested through his presidential campaign. That counts as a substitute, they argue, for experience and accomplishments in office.

I reject the premise. Past experience campaigning may contribute to being a better campaigner, but it says less than actual experience and accomplishments in office about fitness for further office.

But let's indulge the Obama advocates for a bit, and compare the cumulative campaign experience of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. What we'll find is this:

Obama and Palin have almost identical amounts of campaign experience. Palin has actually run in more total campaigns, including one more state-wide election, than Obama, and more of her campaigns have been hotly contested. By election day, Obama will have had about ten or eleven full months of serious national campaign experience, as compared to her two.

Obama's first elected position was as a state senator, elected in 1996. He was hand-picked by the incumbent, who was leaving the seat to run for Congress. When she lost in the Democratic congressional primary and wanted him to drop out for the state senate seat run, Obama's response was to get her filing papers bounced through challenges to the authenticity of the signatures she's provided (which, in true Chicago tradition, were indeed fraudulent). He ran unopposed in the primary, and winning it was tantamount to an uncontested victory in the general election.

Sarah Palin, by contrast, beat an incumbent for city council in Wasilla back in 1992. She did so by going door to door to campaign, pulling a red wagon with her son Track in the back. She ran her campaign out of her kitchen, not the home of a friendly terrorist. Within weeks of her election, she'd taken on another councilman who had a city contract for garbage pickup that favored his own company. After later clashes over ethics and budgetary matters with the mayor, she ran against him in 1996 and, again, beat the incumbent in a hotly contested race.

Palin and Obama both won re-elections to these posts. Palin ran more total races — in 1994 for re-election as a councilman, and in 1998 and 2000 for re-election as mayor — because her positions had two-year terms of office. Obama won his only re-election campaign so far for any office, that being for his state senate position in 2000.

That re-election, however, followed Obama's campaign for a new office — an unsuccessful run in the Democratic primary for Congress in 2000. He lost to former Black Panther Bobby Rush in a landslide. This was not a statewide election.

Palin's next run was for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2002. She lost in the GOP primary by only a few hundred votes. This was, however, a state-wide election.

Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. After the Chicago press' lawsuits re-opened sealed divorce files of his GOP opponent, Jack Ryan, Obama coasted to an easy win against an out-of-state last-minute candidate regarded by most Illinois citizens as a carpetbagger. This was a state-wide election.

Palin, by contrast, ran in the Alaska GOP primary in 2006 as an incredible underdog against a well-entrenched, well-financed incumbent, Frank Murkowski. She whipped him, and then whipped another popular former governor in the general election. This was a state-wide election.

Obama's been officially campaigning for president since February 2007, but he wasn't closely scrutinized or hard pressed by opponents or the press until late 2007 or early 2008. So he has roughly eight or nine months of serious campaigning that could arguably help prepare him for anything except more campaigning, with two more months of hard campaigning to go. By election day in November, Sarah Palin will have had a bit over two months of campaigning, and every bit of that time will have been under close scrutiny and heavy attack.

I'd say that works out roughly to a tie. And it's a comparison of the top of the Democratic ticket to the second slot on the GOP one. McCain, of course, has more cumulative experience in elections than both of them put together.

Posted by Beldar at 05:08 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Comparing Palin and Obama based on their respective experience in political campaigns and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Sarah Palin - style over substance from Mark My Words

Tracked on Oct 2, 2008 5:04:58 PM

» POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part I of III: Gov. Sarah Palin from Baseball Crank

Tracked on Oct 2, 2008 2:09:59 PM


(1) arb made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 5:43:40 PM | Permalink

And speaking of comparisons, there's this:

“There’s a gigantic difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and between me and I suspect my vice presidential opponent,” Biden said.

“She’s good-looking,” he quipped.

(2) prom made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 9:42:44 PM | Permalink

I am afraid the MSM, the left wing and others will use any means they get to undermine Gov.Palin. i am so afraid for her. God bless her!

(3) GaryC made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 11:59:20 PM | Permalink

Don't omit the fact that that Blair Hull, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2004, also had to withdraw after his divorce records were unsealed. The Chicago Tribune reporter involved later admitted that Obama's campaign had "worked aggressively behind the scenes" to get the story out. David Axelrod, a former political columnist for the Tribune, may have been involved.

(4) Milhouse made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 12:29:56 AM | Permalink

Since comments on the next thread are closed: Bravo!

(5) Roger made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 12:51:32 AM | Permalink

IF Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are tied based on experience, then her other qualities make her a much stronger candidate -- she has CORE VALUES. We know where she stands, she has real every-day real life experience, the family issues she faces we can all identify with, and she's down-to-earth and likeable.

Look at past elections: Compared to George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton was likeable in a used-car-dealer kind of way. Compared to the wooden-like Al Gore and John Kerry, George Bush exhibited more of the good-old-boy factor.

In today's election environment where appearances often seem more important than substance, she may have just enough of both to put McCain over the top.

Hang on Governor Palin -- you're a threat to the Dems and it's going to be a rough ride.

(6) UpNights made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 6:05:00 AM | Permalink

And as for Sarah Palin's counterpart's campaign experience - Joe Biden ran for president twice and was found wanting - first with a plagiarism scandal, and this cycle, with a very low percentage of votes.

(7) Neo made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 11:30:15 AM | Permalink

Using campaign experience as the measure, Harold Stassen, the 4-year perennial "up and comer" who delivered the RNC keynote address in 1940, would have been the best qualified in the last half-century, but this would also make comedian Pat Paulsen more qualified that Obama.

(8) James in NJ made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 3:05:17 PM | Permalink

"Obama and Palin have almost identical amounts of campaign experience."

Did you really just compare a gubernatioral election in which Palin won under 100,000 votes to a national primary in which Obama won over 18,000,000 votes?

100,000 to 18 million. What? Close enough. I'll even throw in the 700 odd she recieved for mayor.

(9) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 3:47:47 PM | Permalink

James in NJ, your comments are welcome, but your reading comprehension skills need some brush-up work.

Re-read, please, my next to last paragraph. I did not compare Sen. Obama's experience in the 2008 presidential campaign to any of Gov. Palin's local or state-wide campaigns. To the contrary, I squarely acknowledged that he has a large head start on her in this campaign, by eight or nine months. Those were also the months in which he received the 18M votes, which I acknowledge to be an impressive total, but they do not themselves magically make him smarter or better; rather, it was the campaigning to get them that, in his campaign's current view, did that. Both Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama will be participating in the final two months of the campaign, which I think would generate roughly comparable experience notwithstanding their different slots on the respective tickets. (A good argument can be made that Gov. Palin has been scrutinized and attacked more viciously or thoroughly, as the case may be, than Obama was in the first 10 months of his campaign, but let's set that aside.)

Thanks for playing. Come back any time.

(10) Simon Oliver Lockwood made the following comment | Sep 3, 2008 1:55:17 PM | Permalink

Another thing to remember is that Obama has never had to run a general election campaign against a serious Republican -- no, Alan Keyes does not count. His state Senate districts were overwhelmingly Democrat and winning the primary was tantamount to election. Also, he managed to beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but he hasn't had to really compete for Independent and swing voters. Palin has.

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