If You Think the Mayor of Columbus is Over-Qualified to Be President, Palin's Just Right (plus Hillary's Heroes and Rope-a-Dope-a-Dope)

Population of Alaska: 670,053. Population of Columbus, Ohio: 730,657.

Try to replace Hillary Clinton with someone who's spent less than two years running a place less populated than Jacksonville? That's the kind of thinking that led the GOP to replace Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas thinking nobody would notice.

And they did it 12 hours after Obama exceeded all expectations. He more than lived up to a stadium stage set many thought too grandiose -- Leni Riefenstahl meets The Hollywood Squares -- and relaunched an old boxing metaphor in the process.

Hint to McCain campaign: When you introduce a candidate chosen to appeal to women frustrated by society's sexist perceptions, don't open the rally with all-female cheerleaders wearing skimpy outfits and shaking pom-pons. That happened at yesterday's Palin roll-out, which took place under a large banner featuring the campaign's "Country First" slogan (which I suspect is heretical for many evangelical Christians).

On the other hand, maybe the Palin choice is a shrewd ploy to make Obama look over-qualified. Otherwise, why pass over highly qualified and conservative Republican women like Kay Bailey Hutchinson or Elizabeth Dole in favor of Palin? It couldn't be cynical political calculation, of course.

In some ways it's as if she had been chosen as the "female Obama." She's got a compelling biography. Like Obama she's personally attractive, with a beautiful family. She's from one of our two far-away, offshore, "exotic" states - states that seem almost like other countries. She's even a basketball player.

But who tries to counter the one they call a "celebrity candidate" by anointing as "ready to lead" a former sportscaster with less than two years in any substantive office? (And these conservative attempts to compare the size of Alaska with that of Delaware might make sense ... if Joe Biden were a two-year governor of Delaware. But he's a Senator who's dealt with national issues and world leaders for decades.)

The worst part of the Palin choice is that it's a profound insult to the Hillary Heroes. They're the millions of women who had to set aside their hopes and dreams after years of being told to wait. It was hard, but they did it for the greater good. They never got the attention that "PUMAs" did, despite outnumbering them by thousands to one. Now the McCain team thinks it can buy them off with an unqualified right wing extremist.

I respect Gov. Palin's decision to have her Down's Syndrome baby because of her beliefs. But she would use the police power of the Federal government to forcibly impose those beliefs on the bodies of other women. Can McCain buy women's votes with a candidate like this?

I doubt it -- but if he wants to try he better lose the cheerleaders.

Where Sarah Palin may help McCain is in those Western states that are currently in-play. Her style and her hunting lifestyle may be very appealing there. Evangelicals will like her, too. And I have a feeling she'll dramatically exceed expectations when she debates Joe Biden. She's an experienced broadcaster. If I were Biden I'd be preparing some self-deprecating remarks.

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The Palin announcement was timed to step on Obama's speech, as every living human in the Northern Hemisphere has noted. It was a terrific speech, but if I hear another commentator say that Obama was playing "rope a dope" -- by holding back then hitting McCain with everything he's got -- I'm going to send the ghost of Bundini Brown to lay a curse on them. At last count I've heard four people use the metaphor.

I suppose I played my own part in the analogy orgy by writing "Dukakis vs. Tyson," where I said that Obama was holding back too long while McCain pounded away at him. Others certainly felt the same way. It's not that the "rope a dope" gambit hadn't occurred to us, it's that there's a real risk in getting pounded for too long. Maybe the other guy gets exhausted. Or maybe you get hurt.

It's too early to tell if it worked or didn't. Clearly the Palin announcement was a reaction to the rope-a-dope, trying to drown Obama's counterpunches with a new flurry. But enough with the boxing metaphors ... if it turns out I was wrong, though, I'll be more than happy to own up to it.

What Obama was clearly doing, especially during the convention, was showing a brilliant sense of pacing. By holding back the tough shots against McCain in the first couple of nights, they were that much more effective when they came. The two-act Clinton drama was particularly shrewd (whether it was organized by Obama or the Clintons themselves, and I'm betting it was the Clintons). By having Hillary avoid direct praise of Obama - and by building suspense about what Bill would do - it created a perfect arc of tension and then resolution when Bill came through big-time.

Obama was equally smart about keeping the best McCain lines for himself. Usually a nominee's acceptance speech sticks to lofty themes. But by interjecting punchlines with the lofty material, especially after having held them back for so long, they were even more effective...

I still think this race is the Democrats' to lose. But don't underestimate Obama. He'll do what it takes. Plus, he just gave what may be the best acceptance speech in political history. There were fireworks, too.

And no cheerleaders.

RJ Eskow blogs at: