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The Myth of How the Media Destroyed Palin

The undermining of Palin happened well before the networks andgot to her. The polls proved it.
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It's been amusing to observe, in the past few days, Sarah Palin hit the media (from blogs to the New York Times) for causing all of her troubles, even threatening to sue some of them for "defaming" her. She's even tweeted the charges, repeatedly. It's been equally fun to read some of those who backed her and John McCain last fall now admitting, after her resignation speech, that she is a true lightweight. This was apparent to most Americans within days of her emergence on the national ticket late last summer.

Ross Douthat, one of her old boosters, in the Times this morning writes that her wacky I'm-outta-here speech disqualifies her from running for president for years to come -- but still manages to blast the media for coming to this conclusion months before he did. Douthat even suggests that the "elite" takedown of Palin ruins it for any other folksy, non-Harvard candidate to run again -- and shatters the notion that anyone-can-grow-up-to-be-President. Of course, this is nonsense. For one thing, we generally insist that "anyone" display some degree of brain power and judgment, and also not quit when the going gets rough.

Can't wait for David Brooks to weigh in. Remember that he said on a panel last autumn that she was thoroughly unfit for higher office, but refused to state that flatly in his column.

In fact, in the months after the November election, we heard from pundits and disgruntled GOPers that the media helped elect Obama by attacking, or mocking, Sarah Palin. These critics still allege that she gave John McCain a big boost in the polls when first named and that she would have help drive him to victory -- if not for the allegedly unfair treatment by Katie and Tina Fey and those mean bloggers and all the rest.

But this is not true. The myth should be put to bed once and for all, as Sarah finally crosses that bridge to nowhere.

In fact, Palin never really helped him except with the GOP "base," which he would have won over anyway. She never had broad-based appeal and, as I have written here previously (and in my book, Why Obama Won), McCain had been fooled by false media coverage of the purported huge number of Hillary Clinton fans -- women and the working class -- who were eager to bolt Obama for the GOP. This never came to pass.

In reality, the undermining of Palin happened well before the networks and SNL got to her. The polls proved it. Her home state paper, the Anchorage Daily News was quick to expose elements of her past that raised questions and just days after she was named, the Fairbanks, Alaska daily called her choice by McCain a silly one. And the evidence mounted from there, within days.

More than anything, McCain was hurt by shattering his strongest calling card -- "experience" -- by picking a neophyte to serve one heartbeat away. Now, some conservative pundits who long backed her now may be reaching the same conclusion as evidence has mounted.

This is not Monday morning (literally) quarterbacking. Here is an excerpt from a column I wrote here last September 1, 2008, on the surprising poll results just as Palin was gaining the GOP nod -- and well before the negative stories in the national press appeared.

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll released today shows that he contest between Barack Obama and John McCain -- after the twin "bounces" of the past few days -- remains essentially tied, with Obama leading at 49% to 48%. But what's most intriguing are the results regarding McCain's choice for veep, who was expected to draw more women to the GOP ticket.

In fact, men seem to be more impressed with this move than women. Just now, this seems to be confirmed by a CBS poll, showing Obama with a 48% to 40% lead overall -- but with a wide lead among women, at 50% to 36%, which has only widened. Only 13% of women said they might be more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin, with 11% saying they are now less likely.

CBS also reports: "Before the Democratic convention, McCain enjoyed a 12-point advantage with independent voters, but now Obama leads among this group 43 percent to 37 percent....The poll shows an increase in the number of Obama voters who are enthusiastic about him."

As for the CNN poll: "Women now appear slightly more likely to vote for Obama than they did a week ago, 53 percent now, compared to 50 percent," reports Keating Holland, CNN's director of polling. "But McCain picked up a couple of points among men. More important, McCain solidified his party's base with the Palin selection, dropping Obama's share of the Republican vote six points to just 5 percent now. The Palin selection did not help among women -- that may come later -- but it did appeal to Republican loyalists."

Men have a slightly more favorable opinion of Palin than women -- 41 percent vs. 36 percent. "If McCain was hoping to boost his share of the women's vote, it didn't work," Holland said. And USA Today/Gallup has just released its post-Palin poll showing that Obama has widened his lead from four points to 50% - 43%.

Here is an excerpt from the CNN report: "Is Palin qualified to be president? Fifty percent say she is unqualified to assume the presidency if that becomes necessary; 45 percent say she's prepared for the White House. In recent history, the only running mate to earn less confidence from the public was Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992.

"Three quarters of all voters think McCain chose a female running mate specifically because he thought adding a woman to the Republican ticket would help him win in November."

Greg Mitchell's new book is "Why Obama Won." He is editor of Editor and Publisher.