CNN Contributor; by Ed Rollins; September 8, 2008
NEW YORK (CNN) — Ten days ago, Sen. Joe Biden was the most brilliant vice presidential pick imaginable. He was going to add the experience and foreign policy credential that Sen. Barack Obama’s thin resume was missing.
The so-called expert commentators were arguing that blue-collar Joe was going to guarantee Pennsylvania (because he was born in Scranton) and other states and get Catholic voters because he is a pro-choice Catholic.
I guess they forgot that Joe didn’t do so well with Iowa Catholics (23 percent of the population) when he campaigned there for more than a year in the Democratic caucus race. But then getting less than 1 percent of the vote and coming in fifth place showed he didn’t do real well with any voter group in Iowa. Nor did he do well anywhere else, other than Delaware.
Then, after Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, people laughed and said Biden was going to wipe the floor with Palin in the vice presidential debate. Now, after her incredible convention speech, Biden is saying that he’s the underdog because he’s not a very good debater.
If Obama had done the smart thing, he would have picked Sen. Hillary Clinton for vice president. If he had, he would have united his party for sure and energized his base.
He just couldn’t do it and maybe thought he didn’t need to do it. He was wrong. That choice would have meant that McCain probably wouldn’t have picked Palin. And if McCain had picked anybody else from his shortlist, the Republican convention would have been boring, and the party’s base would not have been motivated.
The one thing we know for sure — the selection of Biden did the least to enhance any ticket since George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle back in 1988. This is turning out to be another election the Democrats were convinced they couldn’t lose. So far, the selection of Palin has been a game-changer and has energized my party like no one since Ronald Reagan did four decades ago.
The polls are back to even again. The only difference is the Republicans now have a communicator to match Obama and the Democrats have on their ticket an older veteran of Washington politics to match McCain’s experience. The reformer Obama who was going to be the candidate of change is now running with Mr. D.C. establishment.
McCain, the maverick who is surrounded and advised by the D.C. establishment, has somehow picked the real reformer who has altered the Alaska political landscape by throwing out the establishment “good old boys” of both parties.
The tens of millions of Americans who watched on television got a visual view of who makes up the two parties (or at least the delegates). The Democrats had many people of color, women, union members, young and energetic folks dressed casually and having a great time: crying, yelling, cheering, singing, dancing. Many are the workers and teachers and organizers who want change.
Republicans were older, overwhelmingly white, men and women (many as old as me) and some young who looked old, in silly outfits or suits and ties with fancy jewelry and big hair, cheering, yelling, crying and trying to dance and also having a great time. They are the businessmen and the producers (who have much to protect) and through their efforts have made America a better place.
I saw more Veterans of Foreign Wars hats and political buttons from past conventions than I thought still existed. And God love them all, the Democrats and Republicans for still participating and enjoying it. But they each represent different Americas and very different ideologies. And though they don’t define it the same, they both want change. iReport.com: Are you still undecided? Tell us why
Judging only from the rhetoric of the conventions, I don’t know what either party really wants other than the big house that sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Both are going to cut taxes; both are going to have new programs.
By the end of McCain’s speech, he was arguing we all need to do something meaningful with our lives to make our country a better place: to become a teacher, join the military, enter the ministry, feed a hungry child, teach an illiterate to read or run for public office. (Just what we need, more candidates.) These were all admirable suggestions, but the speech was the occasion when he was supposed to show the difference electing him would make.
In the end, these conventions became the telling of compelling stories of the lives of the four candidates on the two tickets. All have lived the American dream and have overcome a lot to get to where they are.
But what we want to know in the coming weeks is this — how do we move forward an economy on the brink, end a war and reassure uncertain Americans who feel their lives are not going to get better until someone leads us out of this mess.
That’s the challenge to both tickets today. There are eight weeks left to make the sale.
And so far not enough voters are buying either product.