Sarah Palin: Chevy Camaro or Edsel?

The lead article in this week's Ad Age was "GOP gets its red sports car," in which a brand expert opined that if Senator McCain is a Ford F-150 and Senator Obama is a Prius, Governor Palin must be a Red Camaro. That well may be. And while trying to be neutral politically (at least for this column, he says while writing about politics), the danger is that she may be a Ford Edsel.

Those of you in the older age demo may remember the Edsel. It was the first car created totally by market research. They made sure that the car met every need that the consumer voiced. Problem was, they never tested all of the parts together i.e., the final and real car. And while many of the features ended up in later cars, it became a marketing joke and a failure.

When the news of Sarah Palin came down, most of us said, "Who?" We found out more in the next several days and then came her speech. Even in advance of the Ad Age headline, I could not help but think of the Edsel. Gov. Palin fits all of the research checkmarks to balance Senator McCain and combat the Dems while appealing to the Republican faithful. Female, check. Mother, check. NRA, Check, Executive experience, check. Pro-life, check. Great in-person presence, check. Sense of humor, check. Attack dog, check. (she did after all liken herself to a pit bull). And many more.

But as we all know since the Senator Eggleton debacle a couple of decades ago, it is risky to nominate someone who has not been fully vetted by everyone from Time and CNN to the National Enquirer and People. That's certainly happening now. And it seems like there is a new revelation every day. The Democrats found themselves on defense very quickly. And, as Willie Brown, ex-mayor of San Francisco said over the weekend, the Democrats don't do defense very well. They are better on offense.

The vetting that is going on now should have been done well in advance. The true story behind this seemingly last minute announcement is yet to be told, although there are many theories, including the Republican Party rejecting the first choice of "Independent" and former Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman.

Whether the nomination a) holds up in the face of fierce disclosure and counter attack, and b) results in a winning campaign remains to be seen. But if it does not result in both, there is bound to be a lot of questioning about the research process, which is never a substitute for market testing. There could have been a number of ways to bring her name out earlier and get the vetting done. But they didn't and now, we'll see what happens. Food for thought.

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