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joan vennochi | WEB EXCLUSIVE

A question of judgment

By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / August 29, 2008
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DENVER—What do you think Mitt Romney is thinking right now — that he can't believe that John McCain is even more cynical and manipulative than he is?

Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, is McCain's surprise pick for vice president. Choosing her is an obvious effort to attract disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. But it is so gimmicky that it stands to insult the very women it is aimed at attracting.

McCain is treating women voters as if all they care about is gender. Views and experience don't matter.

Elected in 2006, Palin is governor of a state with a population that is one-tenth the size of Massachusetts. Her prior political service was as mayor of a town of 5,700 people.

What about Alaska is at all similar to the rest of the country? The Iditarod is fun, but it's not the answer to the country's infrastructure problems.

McCain may believe the pick shores up his own credentials, demonstrating that he doesn't need a Joe Biden to buff up his resume.

But given his age, voters need a special comfort level with McCain's running mate. If McCain wins, the next vice president would be a heartbeat away from a man in his seventies.

The VP doesn't matter in the voting, until it does. In 1984, it mattered immensely, when the first Reagan-Mondale debate showed Reagan to be very old, and his mental acuity in serious question. People wanted Reagan back, but that debate gave them serious pause, with the polls showing a significant shift.

The important question going into the Bush-Ferraro debate was not who would "win," but whether Bush could be president if something happened to Reagan. Bush passed that test, and the electorate settled back down, and that was that.

So, the judgment question is front and center again.

Romney, a man of grand ambition, must also be thinking: his next campaign for president begins Nov. 5.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com.

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