She walked out onto the stage in Dayton, Ohio with a smile that could light up Toledo — and Youngstown, Canton, and Akron besides. Welcoming her to the national spotlight, a huge smile creased John McCain’s face as he gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek and looked at her as a father might see a daughter on her wedding day.
There was just a little bit of the Cheshire cat in McCain’s grin — a slyness that bespoke the realization that he had just changed the dynamics of the presidential race again. And for a man who had just finished enduring four days of being pummeled as a George Bush clone, he looked remarkably upbeat.
Despite everything the Democrats could throw at him, and despite the fact that Barack Obama gave a generally well received speech watched by a quarter of the TV audience in America, McCain did the one thing he had to do to knock Obama’s stemwinder of an address off the front pages: he surprised the media.
The media love to be surprised. They love telling us they’re surprised. They love looking at each other on cable TV panels and telling each other they were surprised. Surprise is drama. Surprise is excitement. Surprise is the one thing the media never expected from John McCain, which — obviously — is why they were surprised in the first place.
Should they have been? Some on the left are calling McCain’s choice a “Hail Mary Pass” — a desperation heave following Obama’s supposed game changing speech in front of 80,000 screaming partisans at Invesco Field and 39 million Americans at home the night before. But in the end, McCain had two choices: play it safe and pick a Romney or Pawlenty, or take a shot downfield and choose Palin.
Not a Hail Mary, to continue the football analogy. More like calling a pass on 4th and one — high risk, high reward.
And partisans at Dayton’s Nutter Center didn’t have long to wait to see the reward part. After a slow, somewhat wooden start, Palin warmed to her task and by the time she reached the peroration of her speech, the crowd was ready to explode:
It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.So for my part, the mission is clear:
The next 67 days I’m going to take our campaign to every part of our country and our message of reform to every voter of every background in every political party, or no party at all.
If you want change in Washington, if you hope for a better America, then we’re asking for your vote on the 4th of November.
Meanwhile, back in Obamaland, the long knives came out, all prepared to give Sarah Palin a little taste of how the Obama campaign carves up opponents – when Obama’s people proceeded to stab themselves in the foot.
Barack Obama’s campaign is blasting John McCain for putting “the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.”
The scathing description of Sarah Palin, from Obama spokesman Bill Burton, comes as Democrats scramble to gather a response to a selection that nobody in the political world expected.
I guess in all that “scrambling,” the Obama campaign forgot their problem with denigrating small towns:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
The McCain campaign gleefully pounced in their response:
It is pretty audacious for the Obama campaign to say that Governor Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. She has a record of accomplishment that Senator Obama simply cannot match. Governor Palin has spent her time in office shaking up government in Alaska and actually achieving results — whether it’s taking on corruption, passing ethics reform or stopping wasteful spending and the “bridge to nowhere.” Senator Obama has spent his time in office running for President.
Jennifer Rubin quips, “There are a lot of towns of 9,000 and it seems awfully mean spirited to bring that up as a dig. She of course is a governor now but to bring up her small town roots as a slam seems, well, stupid.”
“Stupid” as in something the media will jump on?
Republicans say it’s noteworthy that, on the week commemorating the 88th anniversary of women getting the right to vote — with McCain, making a groundbreaking VP pick — the Obama campaign’s first response was to attack, not congratulate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, or acknowledge the historic nature of her selection.
It was just yesterday that McCain ran a TV ad congratulating Obama on his historic achievement.
Upon further reflection, Sens. Obama and Biden issued a more carefully considered response.
Sorry, Senator. No mulligans in politics.
First impressions from the Democrats seem to tend toward bemusement. There also appears to be a high level of confidence that the six-term senator from Delaware will make mincemeat of the little lady from Alaska when they debate in a few weeks.
If I were a Democrat, I would not be so sanguine in my appraisal of the relative strengths of Mr. Biden vs. Mrs. Palin. This is one tough lady. She took on the party establishment, including the state chairman, when she ramrodded an ethics probe against the GOP chief. And she went after the Republican attorney general, joining with a Democrat to file an ethics complaint against him. Party insiders hated her, but the rank and file loved her feisty independence. She entered the gubernatorial primary, running against Republican incumbent and former senator Frank Murkowski, and won going away.
Defeating an incumbent governor in a party primary after angering most of the party elite is no small accomplishment — in Alaska or anywhere else. And her tough, no nonsense approach to governance has also rubbed some bureaucrats the wrong way.
It is not for nothing that she earned the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” as a star high school basketball player — a nickname that was revived during her stint as Mayor of Wasilla when she also fought with her party and the bureaucrats. If Joe Biden is seen as being condescending in the slightest toward Palin during that debate, he is likely to get clipped.
The contrast between the two running mates is striking. One is a six-term U.S. senator who has run for president twice with decades of experience in debating foreign policy and defense issues and a “Hail fellow well met” personality and a glib tongue; a man familiar to the political class thanks to his frequent appearances on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.
The other is a former beauty queen, a governor of a small state not yet two years into her first term, who doesn’t have much national exposure and is about to be thrust into the biggest pressure cooker of them all: a rock ‘em, sock ‘em presidential campaign that is already proving to be a combination mud wrestling match and heavyweight title bout.
Can she stand the gaff? As the TV show says, they grow them “Tough in Alaska.”