I’m going to disagree to a limited extent. People are fascinated by mysteries, by unknown quantities, by blank spaces; they afford opportunity for speculation, and they provide a tabula rasa into which we can project ourselves. Not to mention, there’s the “I want to peel back the veil” factor, as we obsess about “finding things out.”
By keeping Palin largely hidden, the campaign has created a vortex of interest, as people work harder and harder to pierce the bubble and expose something recognizable as truth and/or fact. The more difficult it is to do this, the more energy is expended on the effort.
And the result is, the headlines and (especially) TV coverage is “all Palin, all the time,” which gives McCain a bit of collateral coverage in which he can deliver his message. More importantly, it has made it increasingly difficult for the Obama campaign to deliver its own message, let alone control the terms of its delivery. I mean, Joe Biden has been traveling and speaking up a storm, but he can’t even get a back-page paragraph in the newspaper; forget about a ninety-second slot on CNN or a headline blurb on Yahoo. The only time anybody pays even the slightest attention to him is when he condemns the “our opponent is old and out of touch” ad released by the Obama camp. The McCain machine has to be loving this.
Now, mind you, there are two caveats here:
First, I think the strategy is inadvertent, and that the McCain campaign sort of stumbled across it. They knew they had to keep Palin away from the spotlight until she was ready, and until they were sure she had thoroughly absorbed their preparatory efforts, lest she say or do something embarrassing. They saw the whirlwind of interest spin up, though, and, not being stupid, they recognized the opportunity, and have been exploiting it. They’re starting to put her on display now, but in very measured and carefully calibrated doses, all calculated to manipulate the media’s collective eye. They may not have set all of this up on purpose, but now that it’s happening, they’re milking it for all it’s worth.
Second, obviously, it could backfire in a big way. All it takes is one significant gaffe, one oversight, one easily grasped faux pas (more than not knowing the leader of Spain, which Joe Swingvoter doesn’t give a shit about, sadly) caught on videotape for endless looping, and that will rush into the vacuum and become the definition of her character. If that doesn’t happen, though, if the campaign is able to construct the narrative and identity they want, then she can be leveraged as a serious asset.
It’s a high-risk strategy, certainly. McCain is playing high-stakes poker here, and he knew, with all the negatives arrayed against the GOP in this election, that he was going to have to roll the hard six. He threw a big bet on the table, and is watching the roulette wheel spin.
That doesn’t make it a bad strategy.