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Strategy Memo: Obsession For Media

Good Tuesday morning. Monday Night Football is back, but double headers aren't good for East Coast sleeping patterns. Here's what Washingtonians, even those groggy Broncos and Raiders fans, are watching today:

-- The Senate will take up the Defense Authorization bill again today, while the House takes up minor bills in advance of a coming battle over new energy legislation. President Bush addresses the National Defense University today, while Vice President Cheney is on a tour through three former Soviet Republics and Italy.

-- On the campaign trail, Sarah Palin continues to get the bulk of the buzz, both in the mainstream media and in more partisan outlets on the right and left. There's good reason for the attention, too: It's now clear that John McCain's post-convention vault into a small lead over Barack Obama is thanks largely to the Alaska governor. White women now favor McCain by a 53%-41% margin, just weeks after Barack Obama led among the same group by a 50%-42% margin, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a shift attributed almost solely to Palin's inclusion on the ticket.

-- McCain will double down with his running mate this week with what amounts to a second roll-out of her candidacy, Politico's Mike Allen reports. Palin will keynote the deployment ceremony that will send her son and other new soldiers overseas while being trailed for a few days by ABC News camera crews, a mere taste of the interviews to come that demonstrate the McCain campaign's confidence in their new addition. Could he possibly get two bounces out of one addition? If so, watch for a sustained McCain lead going into the first presidential debate on September 26.

-- If the race is even close, watch for the media to wonder, yet again, why Hillary Clinton wasn't added to the Democratic ticket. Clinton was in Florida yesterday stumping for Obama and Joe Biden, but if Democrats are smart, they won't play up the direct rivalry between Clinton and Palin. The simple fact is, every time one campaign gets obsessed with the other's vice presidential nominee, they are thrown seriously off-message. That's the gathering consensus among Democratic strategists, AP's Brendan Farrington writes, many of whom certainly remember how John Kerry and Al Gore did when matched up -- not with President Bush -- but with Vice President Cheney.

-- We feel like we're writing too much about Sarah Palin. Wait a second, wasn't this how we -- and everyone -- felt a month ago when Obama was dominating the news? At times, the press coverage isn't fair, and one side gets substantially more than the other. Obama and Biden have spent a few days in the Midwest talking about the economy, the Politico's McGrane, Parnes and Lerer write today, which polls show is at the top of everyone's mind, and they've gotten just about zero attention. They're disciplined around the media, but when are we going to see the first story about panic inside the Obama campaign? Hint: Wait for a similar piece on panic around Democratic Washington first.

-- But forget who leads. The fundamentals of the race remain the same, as the LA Times' Peter Nicholas writes. John McCain is still battling for swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, while Obama is headed to more traditionally Republican territory like Virginia and North Carolina. The demography of the electorate is going to reflect an increased African American turnout, and Democrats remain extremely excited for their candidate. The biggest thing that's changed is Palin's entrance into the race; Conservatives, for the first time all year, are actually thrilled. We've long held that McCain was the only GOP candidate capable of winning this year, but Palin may have been the only person capable of getting him there.

-- One thing not to forget is that McCain has already raised almost every penny he'll need and use through Election Day, and that Barack Obama has not. By opting for public financing, McCain can no longer raise his own money, though he can raise money for the Republican National Committee. Obama, by opting out, still needs the cash, as the Times' Luo and Zeleny write. And that's no easy task, as the Obama team is already worried about their cash haul. The one-time massive lead Obama was supposed to have over McCain is now simply a race to get even, thanks largely to a massive fundraising lead the RNC has held over their Democratic counterparts all year.

-- Democratic Winner Of The Day: Four years ago, it was Barack Obama whose convention speech vaulted him into the collective Democratic consciousness with a stellar speech at the national convention. This time, Hillary Clinton gave a good speech, Bill Clinton did alright and keynoter Mark Warner was well-received. But the big winner was Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, whose fiery oration got the crowd on their feet. For his efforts, Schweitzer won the coveted Tom Harkin Steak Fry award. Schweitzer will keynote the Iowa Senator's annual fundraiser in Indianola this Sunday, a slot that certainly makes Iowa Democrats pay more attention.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain and Palin are still traveling together, hitting rallies in Lebanon, Ohio and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Obama has an event this morning in Riverside, Ohio before heading to a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Virginia. Joe Biden will hold two town hall meetings in the Show Me State, with stops planned for Columbia and St. Louis.