September 1, 2008


How Palin Could Help (David S. Broder, September 1, 2008, Washington Post)

Here in this convention city, the initial shock at the choice of Palin has given way to a hopeful tentative prognosis -- conditioned by the realization that she has yet to face real tests.

The two-step reaction is best capsulized in the comments of a smart veteran campaign operative, a New Hampshire delegate and early Mitt Romney supporter, who told me: "When I first heard, I was appalled. I thought we had forfeited the election. But then I got a call from my 22-year-old daughter. She's a pro-choice voter, just like I am. But she was very excited and enthused by this choice. She is captivated by Palin's life story, the way she has taken on the odds. She may be more acute than I am."

That's the kind of reaction McCain is counting on, not just among Republicans but, importantly, among independents and women, where most of the undecided votes are. And without realizing it, Obama may have boosted the odds on this gamble paying off.

Obama began his campaign for the nomination as the outsider candidate, promising fundamental change in Washington and offering a post-partisan approach to politics. With time, he has come to be seen as a much more conventional Democrat who is now half of a ticket based in Congress, the least admired institution in a widely scorned capital. Millions who saw his acceptance speech heard a standard recital of liberal Democratic programs.

By picking Palin, McCain has strengthened his reputation not as an ideologue, not as a partisan, but as a reformer -- ready to shake up Washington as his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, once did. My guess is that cleansing Washington of its poisonous partisanship, its wasteful spending and its incompetence will become McCain's major theme.

...the Biden choice will join W's failure to get his drunk-driving conviction out of the way in the 90s as the worst own-goals of recent presidential politics. Just imagine how much different both his own convention and the reaction to whoever John McCain picked would have been had Mr. Obama chosen Hillary. Rather than spending three days just trying to patch up his party, Mr. Obama would have been surrounded by the same sort of energy that Maverick has been. People might even recall that he gave a speech on Thursday. Instead, he trampled on his own message of change--which is all he has-- by picking the quintessential gray Beltway hack. Compounding the error, he left the field open for Maverick to claim sole possession of the title of Agent of Change title and the flyboy didn't hesitate to seize the opportunity.

What makes it an especially appalling blunder is that Mr. Biden brought nothing to the ticket. Try reversing yesterday's Sam Palin experiment. If the choice were between Ms Clinton and Josephine Biden -- a non-descript Beltway insider and two time non-starter in Democratic primaries who'd had to bow out once because of serial dishonesty -- there is no way Mr. Obama would have chosen the latter. Indeed, the choice of the less qualified man seems almost calculated to insult women generally and the Clintonites particularly.

Not only may Democrats be in for a long night on Election Day, but it's easy to imagine the Clinton camp coming out with the stilettos unsheathed and calling Mr. Obama to account for this senseless error. That could get ugly.

I'll pop the bring the Sam Adams....

At GOP reunion, Palin's the star (LISA LERER | 8/31/08, Politico)

Yet the biggest star of the evening was the newest: McCain’s recently announced running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was greeted with repeated chants of “Sarah, Sarah.” [...]

The crowd didn’t hear much from the candidate, however. After a few words about Hurricane Gustav, McCain quickly handed over the stage to the crowd favorite.

Palin seemed more polished than in the previous two days of her vice presidential tour, touting her executive experience as governor of Alaska.

“Sen. McCain also promises to use the power of the veto,” she said. “And as a chief executive, I can assure him it works.”

Palin expressed her empathy for those living in the Gulf Coast. She mentioned that she had signed an evacuation order when flooding threatened homes in the Fairbanks region.

Mostly, though, she sold a message encompassing the strengths of all three former Republican primary rivals: Huckabee’s social conservatism, Romney’s pro-business economic agenda and McCain’s tough stance on foreign policy.

“We don’t want bigger government,” she told the crowd. “We want a government that does a few big things and does them right.”

“You go, girl,” a man in the audience shouted at the podium.

It was a compliment that could be meant only for the evening’s true star.

History Changer: Sarah Palin, talented understudy. (Alvin S. Felzenberg, 8/31/08, National Review)
Every time I come close to despair, I derive strength from the wisdom of the American people. After listening to purveyors of the “conventional wisdom” disparage Senator John McCain’s selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, I grabbed the remote control and returned to that one reliable dispenser of the public’s common sense, C-SPAN.

“Might we be dealing with a female incarnation of Theodore Roosevelt?” asked the first “caller” I happened to hear. “PULEEZ!” my inner voice-with echoes of David Gergen, Larry King, Charles Krauthammer, and others cried out.

Then as I began to ponder the possibility, a ledger popped into my mind with the names of Roosevelt and Palin placed at the head of each column. Sportsman (woman)? CHECK. Outdoors man (woman)? CHECK. Devoted spouse and parent to a bustling brood of charming children? CHECK. Environmentalist? CHECK. Grit? CHECK.

Reformer? BINGO. In fact, it was Roosevelt’s insistence on butting heads with the corrupt political machine in his state that prompted party bosses to “kick him” upstairs by adding the New York governor to William McKinley’s ticket in 1900. Roosevelt had been governor for approximately 18 months. It did not take me long to see what led John McCain to select Palin. They are kindred spirits.

Go Ahead and Laugh: How Palin matters. (John J. Pitney Jr., 9/01/08, National Review)
Until last week, Democrats were much more passionate than Republicans about this election. Accordingly, it seemed likely that they would have an edge in motivating volunteers and getting voters to the polls. Palin is suddenly closing this “enthusiasm gap.” According to Jonathan Martin of The Politico, her selection “ignited a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grass-roots activists to weep with joy.” According to a McCain staffer, the campaign raised $7 million right after the Friday announcement.

Why has Palin generated such energy? Some reasons are obvious. Economic conservatives like her fiscal record. Gun-rights advocates are eager to get behind a moose-hunting NRA member. Social and religious conservatives profoundly admire her for welcoming a Down Syndrome baby into the world. Often with good reason, they suspect that Republican politicians cynically adopt pro-life positions without any real commitment to the cause. Palin is different. She has walked the pro-life walk.

There’s something else that could rally the base even further. In the mainstream media and the blogosphere, liberals are sneering at her. The big hair, the big family, the hunting rifle, the degree from the University of Idaho, the husband who does commercial fishing and races snowmobiles — all these things tell the urban liberal elite that she’s not one of them. Most telling of all, she placed second in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant. Bourgeois bohemians don’t do beauty contests.

The sneers may amuse fans of Keith Olbermann and the Daily Show, but they might not go over well with … you know, the kind of people who cling to guns and religion. Some of them may have been thinking of sitting out the election or even crossing to Obama. But if they get the idea that liberals are laughing at them, they might regard a vote for the McCain-Palin ticket as a good way to register their disapproval.

A Star Is Born?: It’s amazing what a bold vice-presidential pick who gives a sterling performance when she’s introduced will do for a party’s spirits. (William Kristol, 9/01/08, Der Spiegel)
[T]he crucial political fact is that the Obama campaign no longer has a monopoly on “the courage to change.” Facing an electorate that wants change, McCain has given himself a fighting chance to win the election.

And he has staked a lot on Sarah Palin.

Voters are unlikely to learn much that is new or surprising about Obama, McCain or Joe Biden over the next two months. Palin’s performance as the vice-presidential nominee, on the other hand, is the open and unresolved question of this campaign. She is, in a way, now the central figure in this fall’s electoral drama.

If Palin turns out not be up to the challenge for which McCain has selected her, McCain will pay a heavy price. His judgment about the most important choice he’s had to make this year will have been proved wanting. He won’t be able to plead that being right about the surge in Iraq should be judged as more important than being right about his vice-presidential pick.

McCain has gambled boldly on Palin. If she flops, McCain could lose by a landslide.

On the other hand, if Palin exceeds expectations, and her selection ends up looking both bold and wise, McCain could win.

The Palin pick already, as Noemie Emery wrote, “Wipes out the image of McCain as the crotchety elder and brings back that of the fly-boy and gambler, which is much more appealing, and the genuine person.” But of course McCain needs Palin to do well to prove he’s a shrewd and prescient gambler.

I spent an afternoon with Palin a little over a year ago in Juneau, and have followed her career pretty closely ever since. I think she can pull it off. I’m not the only one. The day after the V.P. announcement, I spoke with an old friend, James Muller, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He said that Palin “has been underestimated over and over again. She took on the party and state establishments here in Alaska, and left them reeling. She’s a very good campaigner, a quick study and a fighter.”

Muller called particular attention to her successes in passing an increase to the oil production tax and facilitating the future construction of a huge natural gas pipeline. “At first the oil companies thought she was naïve, and they’d have their way. Instead she faced them down and forced them to compromise on her terms.”

G.O.P. Rallies in Support of McCain, Poll Shows (JACKIE CALMES and MEGAN THEE, 9/01/08, NY Times)
[M]r. McCain enters this year’s convention with the enthusiastic support of nearly 9 in 10 delegates, according to a poll of Republican delegates by The New York Times and CBS News. Just 8 percent have reservations about him, the poll shows.

The delegates’ unanimity comes in spite of their description of themselves as more conservative than Mr. McCain, whose maverick image has long made him controversial in his party.

The delegates’ confidence — fewer than 2 in 10 fear Mr. McCain may lose — belies the election-year climate for the party and its other candidates. Many Republicans long ago concluded that in the presidential contest, only a more moderate and reputedly independent figure like Mr. McCain could win in November, and that sense was crucial to his winning the nomination race.

With Palin On the Ticket, Evangelicals Are Energized (Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin, 9/01/08, Washington Post)
Outside his evangelical church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, David Chung was mobbed by friends and church members suddenly excited about the Republican ticket. "I had half a dozen people come up to me," said Chung, a delegate to the Republican National Convention. "It's a night-and-day change."

Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, reported the same reaction at his church in Atlanta to John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. "It's really extraordinary," Reed said.

For Christian conservatives, who watched with dismay as their issues were ignored or trivialized during the long Republican primary, the surprise addition to the GOP ticket of a woman raised in a Pentecostal church, who once described herself as "pro-life as any candidate can be," has transformed an election many had come to regard with indifference. Now Republicans such as Reed -- who describes the Palin selection as a "shot directly into the heart of the evangelical movement" -- hope the party will benefit in November from a crucial part of its base that is as energized as the young supporters of Democrat Barack Obama.

World's gaze falls on Wasilla, Palin's folks: Amid swarm, Chuck Heath says: 'I just hate not being hospitable' (BETH BRAGG, September 1st, 2008, Anchorage Daily News)
From the bumper sticker on their pickup to the church where they worship, everything about Chuck and Sally Heath is suddenly newsworthy.

Their daughter is one of the biggest national news stories of the year, and so, of course, the parents of Sarah Palin are big news too.

Reporters started calling early Friday morning when John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. By Saturday, about 80 of them had flown to Alaska, driven to Wasilla, found the Heath's home and knocked on the door.

Not even church provided sanctuary from the blitz.

"We went to church today, and there they were -- three camera crews," Chuck Heath said Sunday while taking a break from mowing his lawn.

"I talked to a Japanese crew, and we've heard from England and India," he said. "Someone from Australia e-mailed us yesterday. I guess this is making headlines all over the world."

You think?

Between the nonstop buzz over McCain's stunning choice and a 24/7 news cycle that requires constant feeding, Wasilla is smack in the path of a media storm.

The Heaths are taking it in stride. But Chuck had to chuckle when even his pickup made national news.

"They showed a picture of the bumper sticker on there, that one that says 'Vegetarian: Old Indian word for bad hunter,'" he said.

-The Palin effect: crowd size (Jonathan Martin, 8/31/08, Politico)
17,000+ today for the McCain-Palin rally outside of St. Louis, according to a Secret Service magnetometer count provided by the campaign.

As one veteran of Missouri politics said, that's the sort of crowd usually seen in October for a president — not in August for a candidate.

It's also a record-best for McCain.

McCain the Meme-Maker: a First-Blush Look at Sarah Palin (JACKSON BAKER, 8/31/08, Memphis Flyer)
On Friday late, as the sparkle and glow from Thursday night's Obama-rama spectacular at Invesco Field was receding slightly, to something like mortal dimensions, a group of Democratic stragglers from Tennessee were hanging in the downstairs lounge of the Marriott Tech Center Hotel. They fell to talking about Republican nominee-to-be John McCain's surprise choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

Two members of this tight little group were Will Cheek of Nashville, a former state party chairman and a Democrat's Democrat, and his equally committed wife Joan. Amid what was otherwise a self-congratulatory chorus of dismissal of Palin as a scandal-marred and ultra-conservative non-entity, Joan Cheek demurred.

At 44, she observed, Palin was quite literally a fresh face, not unattractive, and, behind those schoolmarm frames of the governor's glasses, and underneath the hint of cascade in her brunette locks, Joan Cheek thought she saw something else, a still resonant image from vintage popular culture.

"Wonder Woman!" she announced it, not with relish but with what appeared to be sober trepidation....

Profile of Alaska's Sarah Palin: Governor, Reformer, Mother (JIM CARLTON, August 31, 2008, WSJ)
When a hockey mom named Sarah Palin ran for governor as a Republican outsider in 2006, she took on not only a sitting governor from her own party but also Alaska's Republican establishment -- vowing to clean up a political system that had been rocked by an Federal Bureau of Investigation corruption probe.

After handily winning, her popularity in Alaska soared as she went on to sack political appointees with close ties to industry lobbyists and shelved pork projects. Gov. Palin has shown similar fearlessness in going after Big Oil, whose money has long dominated the state. She appears, for example, to have forced Alaska's dominant oil producers, ConocoPhillips and BP PLC, to finally get serious about a natural-gas pipeline -- without making any tax or royalty concessions.

"People see her as the symbol of purity in an atmosphere of corruption," says Anchorage pollster Marc Hellenthal. "She's more like Saint Sarah."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2008 8:18 AM
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