While the job of President only has two formal requirements, the Republicans did a good job arguing that the office requires foreign policy experience. More importantly, they seem to be correct.
While all times are troubled times, this time is especially troubled. America faces economic woes at home, foreign wars, a revived Russian bear, and many other challenges. As such, the next President is going to need good judgment to deal with this world. While good judgment can be built in many ways, one of the most effective is via experience. Obviously, a person can be very experienced and have poor judgment and a person of little experience can have good general judgment. However, experience is still important. Thus, the Republicans are correct to stress the importance of foreign policy experience.
The main point of this focus was, of course, as an attack on Obama. While he has traveled and lived overseas, his foreign policy experience is rather limited. Most of his experience has been with local politics and, compared to McCain, he has little experience even in that area. This is one reason that Biden was selected as VP: he has extensive experience and excellent foreign policy credentials. In contrast to Biden, McCain has selected a newcomer to be his VP. While Palin has some executive experience as governor, her foreign policy experience seems to be non-existent. Given that the Republicans have been hammering Obama on this very point, McCain’s pick is somewhat ironic. The Democrats can simply take all the attacks against Obama on this point and fire them back at Palin. If they work against Obama, than they must work against Palin.
The Republicans can, of course, counter that Palin’s lack of experience is countered by McCain’s extensive experience. Since McCain is the Presidential candidate (barring any upset at the RNC) it can be argued that it is his experience that matters. In the case of the Democrats, the situation is reversed: the VP candidate has the experience and the Presidential candidate does not. The Republicans can use this distinction when defending against their own “reflected” attacks about experience.
Of course, McCain has made the point that the VP has to be ready to take over from day one. If Obama is not ready to be President because of his lack of experience, then Palin is not ready to be VP because of her lack of experience. Hence, accepting the Republican reasoning entails that both tickets are flawed. As noted above, the Republicans can claim a slight advantage because their Presidential candidate has the experience.
I suspect that the experience attack will be used less these days. Then again, politics is not about logic but about perception and emotions.