How Sarah Got McCain’s Groove Back


This artical is from the Wall Street Journal, Bill wrote it so eloquently I didn’t want to try to compete.


If it hadn’t been for Sarah Palin, the last word on John McCain might have belonged to Paris Hilton.

When Sen. McCain ran an ad suggesting a parallel between Ms. Hilton and Barack Obama, the celebrity socialite was quick to respond. In a good-natured riposte playing off her own caricature, the swimsuit-clad Ms. Hilton characterized Mr. McCain as a “white-haired dude” from “the olden days.”

[Main Street] AP

APFair or not, Ms. Hilton zeroed in on a critical McCain weakness: a feeling that his day has come and gone. For their part, McCain supporters have always believed that their Vietnam War hero would crush Sen. Obama in any debate. But it has always been equally plausible that Mr. McCain might give better answers and still leave too many voters asking, “Who is this old guy — and why is he being so cranky to that nice young man?”

Until Sarah Palin.

By putting Alaska’s governor on the ticket, Mr. McCain rallied his base while making a significant overture to women and Independents. But the Palin pick does something even more important for Mr. McCain. At a time when the GOP nominee finds himself in much the same position Richard Nixon did in 1960 — the candidate of wrinkly experience facing off against the candidate of youthful optimism — Mrs. Palin channels hope and good cheer into a running mate who badly needs it.

Tina Fey picked up on this cheerfulness in her “Saturday Night Live” lampoon. Perhaps the skit was meant to show the governor as a ditz. But what Americans see is a working mom who pays the mortgage, pumps the gas, enjoys her husband and children and offers no hint of self-importance. So while Joe Biden (according to the Associated Press) has been speaking before crowds numbering in the “hundreds,” 60,000 people showed up for a Florida Palin rally on Sunday.

Even making allowances for friendly territory, this appeal has elicited comparisons with Ronald Reagan. Though it is far too soon to compare her achievements to his, Mrs. Palin does exude the same sense of America as a land of goodness and opportunity. She sends her son to Iraq and hopes for victory. She talks about a benevolent God plainly and without embarrassment. And when she speaks on issues like taxes, she does so in a language that resonates with her fellow Americans.

Here’s how she put it in her acceptance speech: “My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that’s now opened for business — like millions of others who run small businesses. How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?”

Good question. Even worse for Democrats, not only is Mrs. Palin bringing her optimism to the ticket, she seems to be taking it from Mr. Obama. Throughout the hard-fought Democratic primaries, Mr. Obama maintained his cool even in the face of some tough Bill and Hill tag-teaming. The way he shrugged off attacks was a huge part of his appeal.

But now Mr. Obama seems to be exchanging his JFK face for a Bob Dole mask. His campaign sends out email after email complaining of McCain “lies.” He makes an ill-advised joke about lipstick on a pig that his audience clearly applauds as a snarky put-down of Mrs. Palin, and he does not have the grace (or good sense) simply to apologize and move on. Just last week, he told supporters to “argue and get in their face” when they talk to those who do not share their political affiliation.

This is not the Barack Obama who inspired millions. This is not the Barack Obama who is likely to persuade all those white working-class Hillary voters that he respects their values and will look out for their interests. In short, Mr. Obama needs to relearn the lesson that propelled him to a historic nomination: cheerful and optimistic generally trumps cranky.

Mr. McCain could take a lesson too. If Mr. Obama’s impulse is to tax anything that prospers, Mr. McCain often gives the impression that his is to court-martial it. Indeed, after a postconvention Palin bounce in which he showed his happy warrior side, Mr. McCain appears to have reverted back to Paris Hilton’s wrinkly white-haired dude — especially with recent rhetoric that makes American business leaders sound like the Taliban.

Choosing Mrs. Palin was a gutsy move. Now Mr. McCain needs to take full advantage of it. That means appearing as often as possible with a running mate whose optimism makes him look more confident and hopeful. That means letting her become the symbol of a reformed and re-branded Republican Party. Most of all, it means that when the GOP nominee for president finds himself next to this extraordinary woman, he remembers to put on a pretty face for the cameras.

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~ by Leonidas on September 23, 2008.

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