As a born & raised Alaskan, today has been tumultuous day.
My cell started ringing at ass-crack:30 this morning (Alaska is
1 Pacific,4 ET) with the rumor mill, and then a little later the confirmed WTF calls. Friends and family from all over the country calling to ask about our Gov.
It was of course impossible to go back to sleep after that, so I've been tired all day. But lack of sleep isn't what caused the looming sense of dread I've felt all day.
While the national media and some democrats have had a field day with the Palin VP pick, most Alaskan dems have been wandering around dazed and disoriented, feeling like the rug was pulled out from under us.
My plea is "Don't underestimate her."
I worked on the Tony Knowles gubernatorial campaign 2 years ago that Sarah emerged from with a huge portion of the vote. A little back story: Frank Murkowski, our ex-senator turned Gov (who appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski to replace him) was running for reelection, even though he was pretty unpopular. The Dems decided to run Tony, a popular ex-Governor to beat Frank. Sarah, a relative unknown, was running in the primary against Frank and a wide field of well-liked Alaskan politicians, and was treated like a joke, right up to the primary election night when it became clear that she was the Republican candidate.
The general election season continued the theme. Andrew Halcro, the independent, and Tony Knowles, the dem, both did their best to ignore her. Both were vastly superior candidates, but Sarah managed to weasel her way into the hearts of Alaskans. No one took her as a serious threat. At debates her answers were always "The Palin Parnell team will hire experts to look into the best course of action", where Knowles and Halcro had the experience and knowledge to offer recommendations. And while everyone joked about the "hot factor" influencing voters, no one really expected the amount of "America's hottest Governor" stuff that developed.
To many of us it felt like the Democratic party didn't ever take her seriously. We all knew Sarah had a chance of winning, even a good chance, Alaska is a very red state after all, but no one predicted the landslide that developed, or her ability to maintain an 80% approval rating.
Sarah is a shark. She is smart, and she is shrewd. However, she comes across as extremely personable; you can't help but like her in person. She is a good public speaker, I've seen better from her in Alaska, and considering how little time she had to prepare for today's speech, I think we'll see much better from her in the near future.
The biggest mistake we can make is to write her off, ignore her, or think she won't bring anything to the campaign. Quit with the jokes and the remarks about how cute and quaint she is. Stop with the pats on the back and the hurr hurr stuff.
The experience debate disappears now, let it disappear. It seems many Dems feel a vindictive need to bring up the experience issue after it's been applied to Obama so many times. Don't. Experience is a non-issue, she won in Alaska by being the inexperienced, outside candidate, and the Rs will, and already have, argued that she has more "executive experience" than Obama anyways. This is an opportunity to take the experience issue off the table, lets take it.
Our job is to remember and remind everyone else that it is John McCain running for President and not Sarah Palin. This means dropping the "old and dying" stuff. The jokes and comments that McCain's VP might become president in the next 4 years. We don't want people thinking about Sarah as the President.
I say this because I believe Sarah could win if she were the one running for President. Sure she's from a small town in Alaska and has only been the Governor for 2 years, but it doesn't matter; she is as of today on the national stage. McCain's campaign will do its best to lead with the pretty, energetic woman and let you forget that he's the one that would sit in the big chair. People will like her, and she will be a name in the Republican party for quite a while now.
I've watched the blogs, discussions, and tv reports all day, and while national dems have regaled themselves in last night's speech from obama, and laughed about Sarah, and while the media has had its field day, I've relived the emotion of having Sarah shark us 2 years ago, and felt dread.
We are, as of today, 30 points down, and we're going to need to work hard to make this the victory it should be.
I hope to be proven wrong. I hope she ends up being a horrible pick, but my gut feeling is it won't be that easy, it never is when you're dealing with Alaskan politicians.
I get a vibe that the author may be right. I don't think McCain would have picked her if she was as much of a lightweight as she seems.