10/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Underdog McCain Scores With Underrated Palin

"I went to bed smiling and a woman put [the smile] there," a Republican mother of three told me this morning.

An Asian-American Democratic woman, who is going back to school for nursing, and has twin first graders says, "Ooh, I really really like Sarah. Her speech rocked."

A self-described Liberal Democrat, a blue collar working mother in her thirties, asked her thoughts on Gov. Palin before the speech: "I dont know enough about her."

A female Democrat in her sixties, after the speech: "I don't like her. She seems phony. She's acting. I don't trust her."

Those who are calling Governor Palin McCain's Hail Mary pass are making the same mistake they made in calling McCain road kill a year ago. Palin pointed that out in her speech last night. McCain is not only being helped by Charlie Black and Karl Rove on strategy, but he is also a strategist of the rarest kind himself. When the chips are down, he is the most motivated to survive.

Think about August, 2007. Here was my analysis for a Boston Globe Op-Ed then, called by many a reach:

"What McCain has in common this year with Gore and Kerry is that the press anointed all three as front-runners before the campaign began. The expectations for such "early favorites" are often based on polls taken so early that only the candidates with existing name recognition place well.

These expectations are also impossible to meet. As obscure candidates become known and gain a little ground in the polls, it suddenly looks as though the front-runner is in free fall. The money race is then affected by the press coverage and poll numbers, which make it harder for the "early favorites" to raise funds... In recent months, though, news accounts have emphasized (McCain's) sagging poll numbers and lackluster fund-raising. But the political dynamics in New Hampshire look much less dire. The top-tier Republican candidates all supported the war in Iraq and still do. If Republican voters don't find a significant policy difference between them, only one candidate stands out. McCain is a veteran."

So back to McCain and Palin. Does it really make sense that the man who understands how to campaign like an underdog didn't see a kindred spirit in Palin? Does it really make sense that having a daughter who is almost 18 and pregnant would be any more a disqualifier in the GOP than Cheney's gay daughter was for him?

"She was good... very sarcastic, I thought. But no, she's still a pro-life gun toting, oil-drilling Conservative. Hair up or hair down, it won't change my vote," says a stay-at-home mother of three.

Kind of makes you wonder if Governor Palin is Lois Lane. Last night the hair went down but the glasses stayed on. Maybe after her convention speech bump, which I expect will compete handily with Obama's, the campaign will drop the other shoe and take the glasses off.

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