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Andy Ostroy Headshot

Who's Running for President, McCain or Palin?

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My one-week love affair with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee, is officially over. She's no longer charming. Her relentless sarcasm is derogatory and mean-spirited. And, she's dangerous. The smart girl glasses are, like her, a sham, and that Fargo voice now sounds like nails on a chalkboard. To be honest, most of my previous adoration centered around my expectation that the appointment of this political lightweight would be a cancer to the ticket. Instead, I now believe she's Sen. John McCain's meal ticket. Incredibly, this election has become all about her, not him, and if Sen. Barack Obama and the Dems don't get their shit together fast and strip away the layers of this vacuous onion, Palin just might be the reason McCain wins in November.

Once again, Republicans are distracting voters away from the real issues--the war, Afghanistan, the economy, health care--and framing the entire campaign around the fact that Palin's a small town, socially conservative, diaper-juggling Walmart mom who doesn't scare them. Someone voters can feel comfortable and safe with, wink-wink. As MSNBC's Chris Matthews said Monday, "This is to me the cleverest move they've ever pulled....which is the switch from what do you want to who do you want." Matthews also believes that this tactic is rooted more in racial motivations than anything else. And he's right. The McCain camp would just love to reassure voters that their white ticket is the safer bet.

It's safe to say that Republicans are downright giddy over their Everymom. In fact, since her rousing speech last week at the RNC convention in Minneapolis, conservatives have been acting as if it's she, not McCain, who's running for president. The convention was The Sarah Palin Show. Not good for the top guy to be so embarrassingly upstaged by the former Mayor of Wasilla. It's unprecedented in modern American politics for a presidential candidate to literally rest his campaign hopes on the shoulders of his vice presidential running mate, and to change his entire message to fit her narrow positions.

But nevertheless, Republicans have been smart to elevate Palin in stature knowing just how weak McCain's prospects would be without the charismatic hockey mom on the ticket. This little arctic spitfire has taken his anemic campaign and given it new life. Her convention performance outdrew both McCain and Obama, and she's been on fire since. As proof, a new USA/Gallup Poll released Monday showed a huge bounce for the ticket, putting Grandpa John and Grandma Sarah ten points ahead of Obama and Sen. Joe Biden among likely voters. But before Republicans could really get excited, other new polls, including CNN and ABC, still showed the race as a dead heat.

Just wait. Wait until the currently sequestered Palin has to go before the national news media to answer questions pertaining to a host of domestic and global issues. Despite the intense coaching from Sen. Joe Lieberman and others, Palin's gaping knowledge-abyss will be evident. Gone will be the American flags backdrop, the cheering throngs of Kool-Aid drunken right-wingers, and the writing skills of Karl Rove and Steve Schmidt. It won't be a Wasilla press conference. She may be able to memorize some sound bytes, but she cannot and will not become miraculously adept with and acutely aware of the nuances of our various national security and economic challenges. There's a reason the campaign has so far kept her from the press: she has no idea what to say.

Back to the polls. Bounce shmounce, I say. Remember, Obama also had a ten-point bounce after the DNC convention. Now it's McCain's turn. And a week from now it'll be different yet again. Voters typically do not focus on elections until after Labor Day. The real campaign is just starting. Not only will Palin have to face the media many times over--shows like Meet the Press and Face the Nation are a must--she will also go head-to-head with Biden on Oct 2nd in the televised vice presidential debate. Can you imagine how woefully unprepared and inexperienced she's gonna look against Biden and his 37 years of solid foreign policy and domestic legislating?

Additionally, the Obama/Biden ticket will be greatly aided by the Clintons. Hillary's been out stumping quite effectively already in places like Florida, and Obama and Bill Clinton will be lunching Thursday to map out the strategy for getting Bubba fully engaged. The right can mock Bill Clinton all it wants, but he's a master campaigner and still wildly popular among Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents. His presence on the campaign trail these next seven weeks will prove invaluable.

Stumping in the swing state of Missouri Monday, we got a glimpse of the McCain/Palin strategy in action for the anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-stem-cell research, gun-toting, carcass-skinning, evangelical creationist book-banning Palin. The Repubs know they're weak on the economy, so they had their spunky cheerleader tackle taxes, jobs, government spending, etc. But the speech was short on substance and chock full of catchy sound bytes. Just the sort of knowledge-gap that the media and Biden will shoot Dick Cheney-sized bullet holes through very soon...that is, once she's let out of the GOP safehouse.

"Our opponent, he still can't acknowledge the coming victory in Iraq," Grandma Sarah incredulously declared at the Missouri charade. Did she say victory? The coming victory? I can't wait until the press gets to ask her to (a) specifically define victory and (b) tell us just when that will occur...since she's so damned sure it's coming. Palin also engaged in revising history over her supposed "Bridge to Nowhere" opposition, which we now know was actually aggressive lobbying for the $400-million pork-barrel project. Thankfully, Obama hit back Monday, and hit hard: "I mean ya can't just make stuff up. Ya can't just recreate yourself. You can't just reinvent yourself. The American people aren't stupid."

Oh Barack, how we do hope you're right. But judging from the outcome of both the 2000 and 2004 elections, I'm not so sure.