I've been hearing from a lot of female Clinton supporters the last couple of days--directly, from friends and web contacts, and from reading blogs and on-line comments--and I'm seeing something I haven't seen much of so far in this election: angry denunciations of John McCain. I've never known a true Hillary supporter (as opposed to Republican fifth columnists pretending to support her) to approve of McCain--most of them are happy to embrace Obama as a second choice, some of them feel Obama's barely better than McCain, but better nonetheless--but until now most of the objections I've heard have been rather tepid, as if the emotions of the contest with Obama and the selection of Joe Biden haven't left much room for general-election passion.
Sarah Palin's changed all that. The women I'm hearing from are pissed. Pissed that McCain apparently assumes that all those "bitter Hillaristas" will support a woman who is opposed to nearly everything Clinton has spent her life fighting for just because she's a woman. Pissed that Palin is invoking Hillary's name and making a play for her base so she can help ban abortion, slash social programs, and fight legislation that protects working women. McCain has achieved one of the things he hoped to by choosing Palin: he's energized the hard-line social conservatives in his party who's been having doubts about him. But he may also have achieved something he didn't anticipate: energizing the millions of women who fought for Hillary Clinton against him.
Now there's a report in the New York Times that Palin may be pushing Clinton herself to taking a bigger role in the Democratic campaign. If the Republicans win and polling suggests that the "angry Clintonista" vote contributed to their margin of victory, the pundits and historians will start to say that it was Hillary who put Vice-President (and likely President) Palin in the White House. This will become the great irony of Clinton's legacy: that she is held partly responsible for creating the right-wing Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade. Her stake in this election is suddenly much more personal than it was a few days ago.
The evidence is that vice-presidential candidates don't have much to do with the outcome of an election: Lloyd Bentsen v. Dan Quayle being the perfect example. But this one has the potential at least to change the emotional dynamics of the race, and very likely not in the way John McCain hoped.