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Friday, September 12, 2008

The red flag from Alaska that Team Obama chose to ignore

I've put up another Palin post at HughHewitt.com.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

[Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar]

Marc Ambinder's "Issues and Answers" post in the online version of The Atlantic on Saturday, August 31st — two days after McCain's announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running-mate — was one of the few which mentioned the Dems' lack of preparation for her as a potential opponent:

Did the Palin pick surprise Barack Obama's campaign?

Yes. They believed the media for one in their lives and it turned out to be a mistake. Though the Democratic National Committee had a research folder prepared for Palin, the VP rapid response team read up on Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Joe Biden all week. The Obama campaign was caught by surprise and scrambled to figure out the best way to respond. By the end of Friday, they seemed to have settled on a two-pronged response: Obama, Biden and the campaign would be respectful and Democratic allies would aggressively peddle research to the media, simultaneously trying to convey the impression that they respect the historic nature of the pick while doing their best to discredit Palin.

Mr. Ambinder's report is unsourced, but I don't think it's unreasonable for us to assume that he was relying on observers and perhaps even participants from within the Obama campaign, the DNC, or both. And the strategy he's described is certainly the one the Obama-Biden campaign and its allies have lurched along upon ever since.

My own online research into Gov. Palin, as an exercise in blogger curiosity, began back in early June of this year: Prompted by memories of Fred Barnes' excellent July 2007 article on Gov. Palin in the Weekly Standard, I ended up then with a 1900-word post, the central theme of which was that she would be a "grand slam" as John McCain's Veep. That became the first in what's now a series of fifty-six posts (chronologically indexed here) that I've written on Gov. Palin.

One prominent fact that anyone would probably come across fairly early in his or her own research is that ever since her inauguration in January 2007, Gov. Palin has continuously enjoyed extraordinarily high public approval ratings among her constituents. The Barnes article said in its opening paragraph that Gov. Palin "is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state." In a survey conducted a year later (on July 24-25, 2008), an Alaskan polling company reported online that 80% of Alaska's recent voters had either a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" opinion of Gov. Palin even after the Tasergate (a/k/a Troopergate) non-scandal had been thoroughly vented in the Alaskan press.

Even if they began without much research in hand on Gov. Palin, then, it's a virtual certainty that the Obama campaign's information-gatherers, and then its strategy-makers, became aware of the full extent of Gov. Palin's continuing popularity among Alaskans within the first couple of hours after McCain's announcement.

So why did Obama and his campaign ignore this huge red flag from the Great White North? How could they commit to a strategy premised on the notion that Sarah Palin is a political feather-weight, when the polling numbers from Alaska showed that her own constituents were still strongly backing her deep into the second year of her very active and ambitious first term as their governor?

[# More #] *******

I only see one answer to this question, and it's obvious: The members of the Obama campaign, from its leader down, along with their supporters, all share an extremely low regard for Alaskans' ability to evaluate competent political leaders.

Alaska is our largest state by far in geographic terms, of course, but in population it ranks 47th of the 50 American states, perched a smidgen behind Joe Biden's Delaware and just in between South and North Dakota. Still, that's something above 683k people, which is certainly a large enough population to contain a broad and representative cross-section of the American public. In underestimating and even belittling Gov. Palin's accomplishments, her experience, her sincerity, her sophistication, her fundamental seriousness as a candidate, Sen. Obama and his campaign and their supporters cannot help but insult all those hundreds of thousands of Alaskans who (a) know her and (b) have a favorable view of her.

And note, too, that this disdain, this condescension, is not limited to Alaska's Republicans or its citizenry in general. The attacks on Gov. Palin also demonstrate the low opinion Obama and his followers have for the opponents whom Gov. Palin has convincingly beaten, including former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles. Knowles, too, sought to run against Sarah Palin by insisting that she was unserious, a mere small-town mayor, and (shudder) a pro-life Christian. By embracing the same campaign strategy that failed utterly for Knowles, the implicit message sent by Sen. Obama and his campaign is: "Knowles, you're just another bumpkin too, that's why those strategies didn't work for you. Stand aside and let a Harvard Law man show you how it's done."

Of course, great political heroes beset by tragic, fatal flaws have been an entertainment staple since the ancient Greeks and perhaps longer. Barack Obama has shown us his tragic flaw. When his campaign pulled the Great Seal of Obama after only one appearance, it admitted its awareness of the dangers of hubris. He even prayed for help in controlling his pride when he was at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, an act that itself may or may not have been one of hubris (depending on whether, as many think, he expected the "secret" written prayer to be retrieved, read, and re-published by the press). Pride is one of my own great failings, so I sympathize with him. But if he hasn't already, Sen. Obama may want to consider renewing that particular prayer with regularity.

*******

Sen. Obama and his supporters have indeed already permanently offended some voters by their arrogant and tone-deaf reaction to Gov. Palin, and they're likely to offend more. (I think the McCain-Palin campaign itself can safely back off from pointing out Sen. Obama's and his supporters' condescension now. Let the Dems themselves finish alienating whoever else is capable of being alienated on their own.) But triggering this panicky reaction from the Obamabots is far from the last, or worst, damage that she'll do to Obama-Biden. All we've seen so far has been the roll-out of Sarah Palin, after all. While it's clear that she's already changed the game, the game is far from over. And she's not in the game just to draw fouls and sink free throws.

Wednesday night, speaking to the Fairbanks crowd welcoming her home, Gov. Palin continued to mix in sentences and paragraphs from her acceptance speech that she's been using on the stump with McCain. But she was obviously ad libbing more, and doing so with complete confidence. During her now-standard riff on how Alaska, with its new contract for a cross-state natural gas pipeline in place, is leading the way to U.S. energy independence, she suddenly abandoned the stump speech and interrupted herself: "And that, of course, is going to create the good jobs, it's gonna allow the stability, the reliable energy sources, that — I feel like I'm preaching to the choir, 'cause you guys already know this! It's a message for America!"

And the local crowd went absolutely nuts, precisely because they do know it. Government reform and a new energy policy were the twin planks upon which Alaskans elected her to be their governor two years ago, and they've been watching her perform on her campaign promises ever since. Her message on energy policy is a message for America, and it's another part of the danger to the Obama campaign to which Sarah Palin's red-flag popularity ratings in Alaska ought to have alerted them.

Energy policy — on which Gov. Palin is among the most self-confident and knowledgeable politicians on the national scene today, with demonstrated accomplishments unmatched by any mere U.S. senator — is Sarah Palin's policy stiletto. It's how she's slain her foes in Alaska, and it's how she's earned and kept those phenomenal home-state approval ratings. It is as straight-forward and sharp as any candidate's health-care policy is blunt and complex and headache-inducing.

Gov. Palin has already, if merely metaphorically, laid this stiletto against the Democratic ticket's femoral artery, which is still pulsing right along with the price of gasoline at the pump. If Gov. Palin continues to wield this stiletto consistently and capably — a nick here, a slash there, and then a hearty "drill-baby-drill" at the VP debate — then the Obama-Biden campaign will bleed out into the national sawdust by November 4th.

And they won't have seen it coming because even from the first minutes after McCain announced her selection, they didn't take seriously all those Alaskans who already knew, loved, and respected their governor.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 03:28 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Phil made the following comment | Sep 12, 2008 8:16:47 PM | Permalink

Beldar,

Thanks for posting on HHewitt. I used to read your blog 3-4 years ago, but somehow lost my bookmark. It's good to be back again -- just in time for the election.

(2) alvah halle made the following comment | Sep 12, 2008 10:22:56 PM | Permalink

Beldar:
Man, oh man, can you put words to paper.
Absolutely brilliant summation.
In envy,
AC Halle

(3) w3bgrrl made the following comment | Sep 13, 2008 10:47:35 PM | Permalink

Obama/Biden = Making Government Cool Again.

McCain/Palin = Making Freedom Cool Again.

(4) Gile Arkinon made the following comment | Sep 14, 2008 1:22:25 AM | Permalink

Sarah Palin = Harriet Miers

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