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Strategy Memo: Palin Comparison

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- Good Tuesday morning. Why do they call Chicago the Windy City when we almost lost our hats (If we were wearing hats) in Minneapolis yesterday? Nicknames should be subject to re-evaluation. Here's what St. Paul and Washington are watching today:

-- Republicans, and everyone else, breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as Hurricane Gustav came ashore lacking the sort of power many had feared and forecast. New Orleans, it appears, was hit with a nasty wind and rainstorm, not the "storm of the century," as Mayor Ray Nagin had predicted. That's because the wind came from the south side of the city, not the northern border facing Lake Pontchartrain as happened with Hurricane Katrina about three years ago.

-- That the city is just fine, and that Gustav did not inflict the kind of damage on the rest of Louisiana that many feared, means the show must go on, and today the Republican convention in St. Paul will resume. Major speakers will include former Senator and one-time candidate Fred Thompson and independent Senator Joe Lieberman, as well as President Bush, who will speak by satellite. Yesterday's cancellation was only temporary, and by getting President Bush and Vice President Cheney off the stage, perhaps the hurricane scare was just what McCain needed.

-- Speaking of which, delegates and guests were treated to muted speeches yesterday, focused more on hurricane victims and their families than on politics and policy. Every speaker at the convention mentioned only their hopes for a speedy recovery, not their planned shots at Democrats. Every party held in Minneapolis last night suddenly took on a New Orleans theme, and convention attendees were asked to donate to hurricane recovery efforts. That was the McCain campaign deftly, and wisely, altering their schedule to accommodate the changing tides, exhibiting a seemingly newfound dexterity for which they won media plaudits (And, just to reiterate, got President Bush off the stage without making it obvious).

-- Not all was punch and pie for Republicans yesterday, though. Revelations that running mate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol is expecting a child rudely intruded on the Alaska Governor's surprisingly strong honeymoon as the vice presidential pick. The disclosure, made by Palin and her husband yesterday morning and apparently already known to the McCain campaign, was met with acceptance and understanding by Republican delegates and activists, but the fact that it came out so publicly and ham-handidly shows the McCain campaign, which won credit for it's rollout of Palin's candidacy, is human after all.

-- But could their be bigger problems ahead? That wasn't it for Palin, as revelations seeped out during the day that her husband had been arrested for drunk driving two decades ago, while Palin herself was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which has made secessionist moves at times, according to the New York Times, while she wasn't always as distant from scandal-plagued Senator Ted Stevens as she once said. Too, Palin has hired a private attorney to represent her in what is becoming known nationwide as "Trooper-gate," during which Palin fired a public safety commissioner in a dispute that involved a man divorcing her sister.

-- It's not expected that a vice presidential nominee will greet the media by handing out a briefing document filled with opposition research material aimed at themselves, but it is expected that the rocky first few days will produce a better relationship come Election Day. In Palin's case, regardless of what's accurate or not, the questions will be swirling as she takes the stage Wednesday evening and accepts the nomination. Whether it's earmarks, as the Post's Paul Kane writes, or any other issue on which Palin isn't perfect, the GOP base has much to learn about their new veep. Early signs still point to an excitement among conservatives, though a measure of reality is creeping in.

-- Still, the group getting the most scrutiny over new disclosures about Palin is not the Alaska Governor's staff but McCain's campaign. With Republican operatives on their way to Wasilla and Anchorage to conduct a deeper review of their Number Two, questions about whether McCain's team actually vetted Palin are growing louder. The Times (Link above) reported vetters did not get to Alaska until Thursday, the day before Palin was chosen and not nearly enough time to conduct even a cursory examination of her records. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign's chief vetter, Washington lawyer A.B. Culvahouse, told AP's Liz Sidoti that every potential pitfall in Palin's past has already come out. For his future as a vice presidential vetter, he'd better be right.

-- Silver Lining Of The Day: Forget whatever headache revelations about Palin have caused, the McCain campaign's banker absolutely loves her. McCain raised $10 million in the final few days of the month, they reported yesterday, on their way to a huge $47 million fundraising month, CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand reports. That's great compared with Barack Obama, who pulled in $50 million in July and has yet to release his August numbers; McCain pulled in much less than Obama did over July, and his big money now is his best month ever. McCain can't spend any more of that money after Thursday, though, when he will accept $84.1 million in public financing.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is back in Chicago to monitor recovery efforts from Hurricane Gustav, though what he plans to monitor and how he plans to do it are issues not quite made clear. McCain has events planned for Ohio and Pennsylvania a day and a half before he formally accepts the GOP nod to be president. Joe Biden has town hall meetings in Deerfield Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida, while Sarah Palin is at the Republican National Convention here in the Twin Cities.