- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn.

The knock on the Republicans this week in Minnesota is that this is the white-bread party, with no spice, no glitter and no glitz. White bread or not, the Democrats, in the press booths or watching it from a safe distance, can’t make toast of it. Sarah Palin fixed that.

John McCain even got a little help from a monster prowling the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Gustav offered George W. Bush a late opportunity to redeem the Republican reputation for dealing with a natural disaster, and he’s making a show of tending to business. He appeared Sunday in his shirtsleeves with a look of determination on a face wrinkled with concern.

The storm - hyped as the end of the world by the hyperventilating worthies of cable TV (“There’s not a quart of milk, a loaf of bread or a roll of toilet paper left south of Hattiesburg.”) - nevertheless resolved the delicate problem of what the convention should do with the president. The McCain campaign has to pay respect while putting the president at arm’s length, which wouldn’t have been easy if he had come to Minnesota with Dick Cheney for opening speeches Monday night. Gustav canceled that. Convention managers reduced the opening day to a mere two hours.


Mr. McCain was in Mississippi, feeling pain and inspecting preparations for the storm. Even Barack Obama, stung by the callousness of Democrats who talked of their delight that Gustav could disrupt the Republican convention, offered mild praise for his rival’s flight to the South. Don Fowler, a former national party chairman, was caught on camera on a flight from Denver chuckling and remarking to a companion how “funny” it was that a hurricane was boiling toward the scene of Katrina’s earlier fury. Michael Moore, the political pornographer, told a TV interviewer that the storm and the prospect of ruining the Grand Old Party’s grand old party was the proof he needed to believe in God.

Some of these Democrats, in fact, ruined Sen. Obama’s weekend. He was earlier pained by the blabbermouths who leaped to pour scorn on Sarah Palin, trashing her as too young, too inexperienced and a beauty queen getting to be a little long in the tooth. (Some tooth.) After a week of celebrating gays in Denver, it was nice to see a little appreciation of feminine pulchritude (as we were allowed to describe beauty queens before it became illegal to notice that Mrs. Palin is considerably easier on the eyes than a balding, paunchy 60-something senator from Delaware.)

Neither is Sarah Palin the female version of Dan Quayle, as churlish Democrats first tried to paint her. She quickly demonstrated that she’s neither a deer, nor even a dear in anybody’s headlights.

The deer in the headlights are the pundits and “analysts,” who typically look more like a goose hit on the head with a long-handled wooden spoon than a buck fleeing the woods. The pundits and analysts had the campaign narrative down pat, that Barack Obama is thrill enough to last anybody’s lifetime. In this story line, he “electrified” the convention in Denver, but now comes a toothsome first runner-up to Miss Alaska, threatening to put out the Democratic lights. (Is there an electrician in the house?)

A dispatch to the Politico, the Capitol Hill newspaper for groupies who can’t get enough wonkery to wallow in, typically reflects the shock and awe that John McCain, the old fighter pilot, rained on the Obama campaign. “He’s desperate,” write Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, hopefully. “Let’s stop pretending this race is as close as national polling suggests. The truth is … voters seem very inclined to elect Democrats in general this election - and very sick of the Bush years.”

May be. But the daily tracking polls are showing that the Obama “bounce” was the bounce of a dead ball. Zogby’s polling actually shows a McCain bounce, putting him up 2 points. On Sunday, Rasmussen, whose polling has been the most reliable in recent elections, showed Mr. Obama up by 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent, almost exactly where the two candidates were before the coronation in Denver.

With respects to St. Paul, a city of lovingly preserved Victorian houses and leafy streets on the banks of the Mississippi (before he becomes Ol’ Man River), this is not where the campaign was supposed to be. After ruining Hillary’s “inevitable presidency,” Barack Obama no longer looks like the slam dunk and John McCain no longer looks like an old man with a weak pulse. We’ll leave Minnesota with a horse race.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.