Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden got a 10 point bounce coming out of their impressively orchestrated convention. They had been down two points going in; they were ahead by eight on Friday. But McCain’s stunning choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has dramatically changed the equation. According to a new poll out Sunday morning by John Zogby, McCain and Palin now have a two point lead over Obama/Biden, 47% to 45%. [UPDATE: A new CNN poll released Monday morning has it Obama 49%-McCain 48%] That’s a dead heat — again. But the momentum is now McCain’s going into a very challenging week. A Republican convention. A hurricane moving towards the Gulf coast. An economy that’s rebounding (up 3.3% last quarter). The Russian Bear reemerging. And the possiblity of a major war in the Middle East this fall.
I have to say that I am very impressed with Governor Palin and moved by her story. I love her family, love the fact her son signed up for the Army last 9/11 and is headed for Iraq this fall, love that she’s a pro-life conservative ["Four months ago, my fifth child was born with Down syndrome…so I value innocent life. It took many months for me to get my arms around the idea of, first, having a fifth child at my age, but also knowing that my child would have an extra chromosome. But I prayed the whole time, 'God, just prepare me, prepare my heart and prepare my family.' And talk about confirmation of that prayer, I mean, Trig is just—he is to me—absolutely perfect. And everybody's in love with him, and he's the sweetest little baby in the world."], love the major reforms she has already accomplished in Alaska, love that she took on and defeated corrupt Republicans, love that she cancelled the “bridge to nowhere,” love that she’s given huge oil revenue rebates to the working families of Alaska, love her expertise on oil and gas issues and her ability to get passed a $40 billion pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas through Canada to the lower 48. Wow. This is good stuff. The media is loathe to say it, but the truth is she has done more in her 13 years in elected office that Obama has with his 100-plus “present” votes in the Illinois Legislature and his paper-thin record in the Senate.
[Must-read interview by CNBC's Maria Bartiromo with Gov. Palin: "Drilling in Alaska is going to be a matter of life and death. Up here in Alaska, we're bursting with billions of barrels of oil that are warehoused underground. We have to pump [this oil] and feed our hungry markets instead of relying on the foreign sources of energy….I think some in Congress have misconceptions about what ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is all about and what Alaska is all about. When you talk about ANWR and the area that needs to be unlocked so that we can explore more and develop these billions of barrels of oil, it’s a swath of land that’s about 2,000 acres in size—and that’s out of a 20 million-acre plain that has been set aside. So 2,000 acres, that’s like a postage stamp on a football field. It’s about the footprint-size of LAX [airport]. And I think a lot of people have assumed that it’s some mountainous, green valley—an area so extremely pristine that wildlife would be adversely affected; land, water, air would be adversely affected if those 2,000 acres were allowed to be tapped. And that is not true. We have very, very stringent oversight up here in Alaska with our resource development. We would even ramp up that oversight to a greater degree if people would understand the importance of unlocking that swath of land and let the development begin….Just that swath of land in that refuge alone is estimated to hold about 11 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And those are just the areas that have been explored. That’s about a year and a half worth of U.S. oil consumption and many months of natural gas. It’s about a trillion dollars worth of energy. And that’s—again—just that sliver of ANWR. So when we hear, ‘Well, maybe there isn’t enough,’ or ‘Well, it’s too late to drill now anyway, we should have done this five, 10 years ago,’ hey, I can’t argue that. I say yeah, we should have done that years ago. But better to start that drilling today than wait and continue relying on foreign sources of energy. We are a nation at war and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources, which is nonsensical when you consider that domestically we have the supplies ready to go.”]
That said, it remains to be seen whether Governor Palin is ready to be Commander in Chief and the leader of the Free World if something happens to McCain. I want to believe she is, but count me from Missouri on this one — from the “show me” state. The Governor is really going to have to prove herself in the days and weeks ahead by what she says and how she says it. How well does she understand the Putin threat and how to handle a resurgent Russia? How well does she understand the threat of Radical Islam and how to handle Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan? How well does she understand the rise of China, India and Brazil as global game-changers and what they mean to U.S. security and the global economy? These are the defining foreign policy issues of our time. Sens. Obama and Biden have demonstrated dismal judgment on each of them. This gives the Governor an opening to prove that she has better instincts and the right judgment.
I am not one who believes that people from small town America and governors from states with small populations “don’t get it” and “can’t get it.” I don’t believe that Americans from Washington, D.C. necessarily understand the country and the world better than those from Arizona and Alaska. To the contrary, as someone who grew up in a small town in upstate New York and has now lived in the D.C. area for nearly two decades, I’m highly skeptical of “inside the Beltway” elitism.. So bring it on, Governor Palin. Show us what you’ve got. I want to believe. Many Americans do.
One more thing: Sen. McCain and Governor Palin have a real opportunity to prove themselves to be different kinds of leaders with how they handle this hurricane about to hit the Gulf Coast. I’m praying the natural disaster does not hit, or the damage is minimal. But if it hits hard, I’d love to see the Governor mobilize the Alaskan National Guard to fly in relief supplies to help those devastated. I’d love to see her work with governors throughout the South to mobilize volunteers to help. This could be the Governor’s best possible introduction to the American people — show us you can lead effectively in a crisis, not just issue a press release or give a glitzy speech like your political rivals.
“Palin is not to be underestimated,” says John Zogby. “Her real strength is that she is authentic, a real mom, an outdoors person, a small town mayor….She is also a reformer. A very important demographic in this election is going to be the politically independent woman, 15% of whom in our latest survey are undecided. In the final analysis, this election will be about Obama vs. McCain. Obama has staked out ground as the new JFK — a new generation, literally and figuratively, a new face of America to the world, a man who can cross lines and work with both sides. But McCain is the modern day Harry Truman — with lots of DC experience, he knows what is wrong and dysfunctional with Washington and how to fix it, and he has chosen a running mate who is about as far away from Washington as he could find.”
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