Saturday, September 13, 2008


The first thing you have to do is stop running against Sarah Palin and start running against John McCain. She's sort of bullet-proof....

--Dee Dee Myers, "What Obama Should Do Next," at the New Republic Web site

You can never kill her now. Forget it. She can hurt herself, but in terms of Democratic attacks she is bulletproof. You made her that -- she wasn't that way when she walked in.

--Peggy Noonan in yesterday's Wall Street Journal

Bulletproof? Sorry, no. No one in politics is bulletproof.

Was George W. Bush bulletproof when he landed on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln after seemingly winning two wars in a span of months? Was his father bulletproof when his approval rating topped 90% after he won a war? Was Ollie North so bulletproof after his congressional testimony that he could sail into the Senate in his first run for political office? Were Nixon and LBJ bulletproof after their landslide victories in '72 and '64?

Sarah Palin has been on the national scene for a whopping two weeks; but it's preposterous to say that she's had enough time to become bulletproof.

A Pew poll taken in the days after the convention showed that voters simply didn't think they'd learned enough about her -- and they hadn't been so put off by the coverage of her so far to rally to her side:

Half say that news coverage of Palin has been fair while slightly fewer (46%) say it has been unfair....

In general, most Americans (70%) say it is important to learn about the details of Palin's background so they can judge whether she would be a good vice president....

There is a stark partisan divide in views about the fairness of press coverage of Palin. By 65% to 30%, Republicans believe that news organizations have been unfair in their coverage of Palin. Democrats, by nearly an identical margin (66% to 30%), say the coverage has been fair. Roughly half of independents (51%) see the coverage as fair, while 44% see it as unfair....

Men are about as likely as women to say that coverage of Palin has been fair (52% vs. 48%). There are no major gender differences in views of the amount of coverage or whether it is important to learn details about her background.

And a new Newsweek poll makes clear that there's plenty for the public to learn:

Overall, a majority of voters (52 percent) have a favorable opinion of Palin, even if they are not familiar with some of the details in her record. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters did not know that Palin opposes abortion even in instances of rape and incest. Sixty-nine percent did not know that she favors teaching creationism in public schools. Asked if Palin shares their view on abortion, 43 percent of white women said yes, 41 percent said no and 16 percent did not know.

Her favorable rating is 52 percent? That's not even close to "bulletproof." In the spring of 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf had a favorable rating of 93%, and was being talked about as a presidential candidate. That's getting close to bulletproof.

(Oh, by the way, the Newsweek poll shows the race exactly tied -- a whopping 3-point improvement for McCain since July. So, yeah, Palin's helping him, quite possibly enough to put him over the top. But no, Palin's not universally admired, or the McCain ticket would be much further ahead.)

You know how popular Palin is now? As popular as Barack Obama was in the first couple of months of this year. The favorable ratings are about the same. Was he bulletproof? Should Hillary Clinton or the GOP have assumed that any attempt to attack him would just make him stronger?

Noonan and Myers think Palin is bulletproof because they're insider elitists trapped in a closed loop of mainstream media/GOP spinner opinion. I guarantee that it's been years since either one of them has had a serious political conversation with an actual voter earning less than six figures a year. They see Palinmania -- which, yes, is real -- and think it's a universal phenomenon. It's not.

But it might be if everyone just accepts that it is and continues to walk on eggshells around Palin.

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