POLITICS

GOP Omerta On Palin Withdrawal

Determined, at least for the moment, to avoid even a hint of replicating the forced withdrawal in 1972 of Vice Presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton, Republicans here are uniformly claiming that absolutely no one - except the press - has discussed, mentioned or even hinted at the possibility that John McCain may have to bump Sarah Palin off the ticket.

"Hell no! No hint of that! None! Nada," declared Republican Pollster Whit Ayres. "All of the talk is exactly the other way," he said, claiming to be stunned by a reporter's inquiry. Palin, he said, "has energized this convention. These people [delegates] are fired up about her. Now they are going to work their hearts out for her."

On the record and off the record, Republican strategists are putting up a nearly united front in a drive to quash public speculation that the growing controversies surrounding the Palin pick, and the growing body of evidence that only a superficial background check of the Alaska Governor was conducted, are forcing the McCain campaign to rethink its choice.

Among the many news stories that have followed the selection of Palin are: There is a special investigation underway into Palin's decision to fire the state Public Safety Commissioner; her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant; her husband has been active in an Alaska secession movement and she has attended meetings of the secessionist organization; Palin helped run a '527' third party political group of the kind McCain has adamantly criticized in the past; and she has come under fire for spending little time with her newborn Downs Syndrome child.

The Republican 'Omerta' strategy is, as one lonely GOP source noted to the Huffington Post, not credible. "Of course people talk about it [pulling Palin off the ticket] over a drink or at breakfast. Everyone agrees that it's not in the cards now, but it's crazy to tell you animals [reporters] that there is a total vacuum of thought." That note of realism does not, however, prevent the cadre of strategists and operatives here from toeing the line. "There has not been any talk that I've heard," one well-connected player here contended. "Everyone is locking in on her." This source did not declare that a change in the number two spot is forever off the table, however. "He [McCain] is not going to do it unless something that is completely off the radar now comes up."

The McCain campaign and the RNC have issued Palin talking points to delegates who face constant questioning from local and national press about the qualifications of McCain's choice and the floodtide of disclosures about her past and her family. Marc Ambinder posted a campaign email marked, "INTERNAL DOCUMENT - NOT TO BE EMAILED BEYOND CURRENT DISTRIBUTION LIST." It told loyal party members what to say when questioned about Palin's family issues:

"Please see the following points on Gov. Palin's family.

" * Governor Palin and her husband Todd have a loving family and their children mean everything to them. When their oldest daughter Bristol came to them with news that she was expecting a child they embraced her and gave her nothing but unconditional love and support.

"* This is a very personal matter for the family. We should all respect the love they have for the child and the desire all parents would have for their children's privacy.

"* The media should respect Bristol's privacy. That's always been the tradition and practice when it comes to the children of candidates.

"* (If pressed) The children of candidates do not choose to run for office and be thrust into the spotlight."

Thomas Eagleton was announced on July 14, 1972, as George McGovern's Vice Presidential pick, but news stories soon disclosed that he had received psychiatric care for depression, including electroshock therapy. Just over two weeks later, on August 1, Eagleton withdrew at McGovern's request and was replaced by Ted Kennedy-in-law Sargent Shriver.

As of Tuesday night, Intrade, the political futures market, was offering gamblers convinced that Palin will withdraw 8.3-to-1 odds: that anyone betting $12 dollars that Palin would be off the ticket before November 4 would get $100 back if they were proved right.