By Dick Morris - 09/03/08 09:46 PM EDT
When you are smearing a politician, make sure you wait until after she has given her introductory speech to the nation. If you strike before, she will wipe you out with her speech and you will be embarrassed by your accusations. That’s the lesson the Democrats are likely learning this morning.
The two other attempts to destroy a vice presidential candidate — Eagleton in ’72 and Ferraro in ’84 — both revved up after they had spoken at their convention. Revelations of Eagleton’s psychiatric treatment, inpatient, at a mental hospital surfaced after the convention was over, as did charges against Geraldine Ferraro’s husband and the demand for a release of their tax returns. But Palin’s accusers struck too soon — right after her candidacy was announced.
Their hair-trigger response was to throw everything they could at the nominee as fast as they could dish it out.
But Palin had a speech coming. Because of the publicity surrounding her, it was probably one of the most widely watched orations of the political season. As this is written, we don’t know how she did, but I know her and I am confident that she hit it out of the park.
If Palin emerges from her speech in good shape, the Democrats will be falling all over themselves trying to explain to alienated women why they attacked her on such personal issues, blaming her for her sister’s messy divorce, her daughter’s pregnancy and her husband’s DWI of 20 years ago. Women — and men — will be impressed that Palin is the kind of anti-Washington establishment candidate for whom they are yearning. She’ll explain what she did in Alaska and what she’ll do to the power elite in Washington. Her integrity, courage and commitment are going to shine through.
Not only will this juxtaposition of the personal smears against her and her fine speech cause the Democrats to look bad, it will further alienate them from the women they must win in order to triumph.
The McCain strategy has to begin by breaking apart the linkage the Democrats are trying to forge between McCain and the man he ran against eight years ago, George W. Bush. Joe Lieberman’s speech on Tuesday night and the Palin designation are going a long way toward accomplishing that objective. McCain’s speech on Thursday night will likely complete the task.
By narrowing the differences between Obama and McCain, and making McCain as good a change agent as Obama, the Republicans stand to profit from fears about how Obama’s tax hikes will endanger the economy and his lack of any foreign policy experience will weaken us in confronting Russia, Iran and the terrorists. These fears would not necessarily win any converts to the GOP if their candidate were Bush. But by emphasizing the differences between Bush and McCain, the Republicans will have laid in the predicate for their campaign.
And Sarah Palin is a big part of those plans.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com. To order a signed copy of their new best-selling book, Fleeced, go to dickmorris.com.