Why Palin could topple Obama

Dammit, Sarah Palin has as much charisma as Barack Obama

I love Obama unreservedly, much as I used to love San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (aka Mayor Hunky), which was before he schtupped his good friend's wife and hooked up with an entirely predictable actress who's not even that talented, although she is predictably gorgeous. Bor-ing.


If I still lived in California and were going to vote in the US elections I would wear my 'Obama for yo' mama' t-shirt to the polls and feel even more smug than I did in 1992 when I voted for Bill Clinton. (That euphoria sadly wore off. I was at university, considering applying for a White House internship, when he got tangled up with Monica Lewinsky and lost my support forever.)


But I believe in Obama, despite Oprah Winfrey's endorsement and Scarlett Johansson's endorsement and the endorsement of that Black Eyed Pea, will.i.am. And let me tell you, I am a girl of little faith. So for me to get excited about a candidate, rather than simply tolerating one, is a barometer of sorts. I am one of those people who is all fired up about Obama despite his lack of international experience, his lack of national experience, his association with dodgy buggers and his personal myth-making. I can see all the reasons not to support the man, but because I believe he is the leader the US needs right now, I can discount all that other stuff.


We went to an Obama rally in San Francisco last November and I wrote this little gush on my blog on November 18.


Oh-bama! Mayor Hunky was re-elected, which was no great surprise given his opponents were like cartoon characters, but he's old hat now. I have a new crush—Senator Hunky from Illinois. We waited in line for an hour and a half to see Obama at his SF rally on Wednesday. It seemed for a while that we weren't going to get in at all because there were just two doors to the auditorium set up with metal detectors and there were over 6,000 people trying to squeeze in there. Just before 9pm everything stopped—the line halted, more police turned up, everything went quiet, and then whoop, whoop, the motorcade burst onto Polk St. We could see Obama sitting in the back of his Cherokee, waving, and then it stopped and he got out and I had my first-ever moment of celebrity worship. He conducted his own energy. As if he'd just jumped out of God's pocket. It was extremely exciting. He'd been told we were the tail-end folks who might be foiled by the metal detectors and made an impromptu speech about closing Guantanamo and ending the war and other stuff that didn't sink in because I was jumping up and down and trying to keep my eyes on him at all moments. He was just 10 feet away from us, and some of his energy clearly leapt across the crowd and into the tops of our heads because after he got back in his SUV and the secret service guys folded themselves back into shape (they did not seem happy about the unexpected pit stop) we joined the crowd who surged for the doors. The line unraveled like yarn—that someone had thrown acid on—and although some people tried to stay in formation, it was futile. We ended up getting ushered in a side door with no metal detector and no-one to check our tickets. We could have been very dangerous, I suppose, but like everyone else there that night we felt like Barack-stars.


Exciting times. Hillary's "street party" across the Bay Bridge in Oakland had been a bitter disappointment. Totally stage-managed. Too many introductory speeches by minor Californian politicians. Too many songs from the gospel choir. I did buy a 'Make History' t-shirt, but it doesn't get many outings. Hillary had no show once I'd seen Obama in action. Which is what happened to the poor woman in the presidential primaries.


So on to Sarah "Russia is my neighbour, y'all" Palin, the woman who might just stop Obama from becoming the 44th American presidentdespite his recent resurgence in reaction to the American financial crisis, which I fear is a knee-jerk reaction and not something he can count on. She will continue to have appeal, not because she is particularly clever, or talented, but because she is a lil' spitfire and Republican men (and nearly all men of a certain age, if we're honest) love women who look cute and sound tough. She used to be a beauty queen and she is still the hottest governor. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and she likes to eat moose. Adorable. Plus, her hockey mom schtick and anti-abortion stance appeals to conservative women who might otherwise find her nauseating.


I don't like Palin. I don't like the fact that she calls herself a feminist while playing the same retrograde games that homecoming queen types so often do. I resent the fact that as soon as McCain shoulder-tapped her, she tried to muscle in on disappointed Hillary voters. I think it's weird that she hid her pregnancy from the people of Alaska for eight and a half months. Her voice sets my teeth on edge. Her hair is too big. For me, her sudden appearance on the international stage is a mystery akin to the popularity of bluetooth headsets. I would happily discount her and get back to the business of planning my election night celebration party.


My problem is this: Palin has the same sort of personal charisma as Obama. It doesn't work on me or my ilk, but it seems to affect millions of people who like lipstick jokes and think huntin' chicks with nice legs and cute families make awesome world leaders. Obama, no old-hand politico himself, has been in the game a comparatively long time. While the media have given him a mighty boost in the last 18 months or so, now they are understandably excited to have fresh material. Thanks to Palin, the stale cracker McCain is enjoying a last-minute surge of interest as we approach election day.


I was delighted that McCain won the Republican nomination. I thought he made Obama look even more dynamic and appealing and at 72, after decades of polarising his party and capitalising on his terrible Vietnam experiences, thought it unlikely he could swing a ride to the White House. But now he has been overshadowed by his glammy running mate, and she scares the bejeezus out of me. If she gets her chance, she could make George Dubbya look measured and well-informed.