Presidential Campaign

Not So Quiet for Officially Subdued Day One

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Today is the pretty much canceled Day One of the Republican National Convention and it isn’t as quiet as you might think with everyone talking about Sarah Palin’s “babygate” problem. News that John McCain has decided not to avoid the place and arrive in time to accept his party’s nomination in person is good for his campaign — he better get control of the message and fast.

McCain’s initial instincts were right, to avoid the appearance of a political celebration while a monster storm threatened the Gulf Coast. And having President Bush and Vice President Cheney monitor the situation and avoid Minnesota was clearly the smart thing to do. They’re wildly unpopular and the base doesn’t need them now that they have Palin — the conservative sweetheart — instead.

But let’s look at what the McCain campaign is starting a nominating convention with: news that the VP pick’s teenage daughter is pregnant, a statement given in response to rumors that Palin covered up her daughter’s pregnancy and is actually the baby’s grandmother. McCain reportedly knew of this when he tapped her last week.

OK.

Now McCain must come to town to face his largest televised audience yet and lay out his vision for his presidency, just as his opponent did last week. This is is his chance to take the reins back in a very precarious moment caused by the storm, the reaction to Palin’s inexperience and now the news about her family. He doesn’t need to talk about teenage pregnancy but he better assure people he is right about all this. McCain’s friend Bill Kristol put it bluntly in The New York Times — “she is, in a way, now the central figure in this fall’s electoral drama.”

Of course Kristol filed his column yesterday before the Palin rumors and the Palin news about her 17-year-old’s impending birth and marriage. But Kristol is right about Palin’s resume. “If Palin turns out not to be up to the challenge for which McCain has selected her, McCain will pay a heavy price. His judgment about the most important choice he’s had to make this year will have been proved wanting. He won’t be able to plead that being right about the surge in Iraq should be judged as more important than being right about his vice presidential pick. McCain has gambled boldly on Palin. If she flops, McCain could lose by a landslide.”

So even if hell or high water comes now, McCain will likely want to get here soon and get this party started after all.

JOIN Ask A.B. MONDAY, Sept. 8, AS WE WRAP THE GOP CONVENTIONSend your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. I will see you then — thank you.

Tags Conservatism in the United States John McCain John McCain John McCain presidential campaign Natural Disaster Person Career Person Relation Politics of the United States Public image of Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin interviews with Katie Couric Tea Party movement United States William Kristol

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