So Where Does Palin Take This?

So Where Does Palin Take This?

By Mark Davis - September 3, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Tonight's convention speech by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will not take place in a football stadium. The Xcel Energy Center here in Minnesota's capital city has about one-fourth the capacity of Invesco Field in Denver, where Barack Obama delivered an unremarkable speech in a very remarkable setting last week.

But as Ms. Palin accepts the nomination for vice president, the Republican Party will claim its share of history in a year marked by the obliteration of past barriers.

Democrats rightly claim the first major-party presidential nominee of color. They also point with pride to the first woman to come so close.

Sarah Palin will not be the first woman to accept a major party's vice presidential nod, but she's the first with a chance to win. As such, some questions and answers about where she goes from here:

Has she been derailed by the pregnant daughter story?

Barely. The measure of a campaign brushfire is how many voters it stands to cost. So far, the socially conservative base remains grateful to have a John McCain running mate they actually like more than him. To them, the measure of Sarah Palin is not unwise behavior by her almost-adult daughter; it is the loving and poised manner in which she and her family have faced the issue.

But isn't it a concern that there could be more shoes to drop?

Absolutely. Nothing has winged her yet, but heaven knows the portion of the media culture that despises her, from radical left blogs to supposedly mainstream writers and broadcasters, will battle for the medal of honor that will accompany the story that knocks her out of the race.

Will that effort succeed?

Impossible to know. Who saw the pregnant daughter coming? In an Alaskan life that is equal parts quirky and charming, there could lurk any number of stories that could extinguish enthusiasm for her. Or, she could turn out to be every bit the solid, energetic reformer Mr. McCain saw, earning wide benefit of the doubt as a woman whose life story and skills are a breath of fresh air in a country where millions say they weary of stodgy career politicians.

Are there points to be scored in comparing media curiosity in her case vs. Barack Obama and John Edwards?

Here at the Republican convention, sure. As the world puts Sarah Palin under an electron microscope, I've noted that if newspapers and networks had paid one-tenth as much attention to Mr. Edwards, the National Enquirer would not have scooped them on his adultery story. Had they focused as heavily on Mr. Obama's disturbing history of associations, Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.

But most voters don't pay attention to such things. Instead, they will focus on what Ms. Palin says she and Mr. McCain want to accomplish.

So what should she say tonight?

She should put Washington on notice that real reformers are on the way, people who have fought wasteful spending and corruption, even when it meant challenging their party's power structure.

Mr. Obama never dreamed of taking such risks. As debate swirls over "experience," the McCain-Palin ticket is redefining, not yielding, on the issue by offering an accomplished nominee who seems ready to bring real change, not rhetoric.

At his side, she needs to come across as the perfect complement. Hers is the experience born of small-town values and a big family, high standards and a low tolerance for corruption.

Hers will not be a normal path to the vice presidency. But if there is anything that truly calls out for change, isn't it the heavily trodden path that has led to the culture of cookie-cutter leaders who created so many of the problems we are out to solve?

Mark Davis hosts a radio talk show in Dallas-Fort Worth and is a free-lance columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

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