I did something kind of special today: I went to a big fundraiser and heard Sarah Palin speak before a relatively small audience (1,200 of her closest friends in Northern California). There are definitely perks to being a political volunteer.
I had a wonderful time, too. I got to check people in, and everybody was so very happy to be there. If things were a little wrong with the contents of their envelope (tickets, name tags, etc), they were so cheerful about it, just because they felt that they were in a special place, at a special time.
Once my volunteer stint finished, I was able to go into the large ballroom, pull up a chair, have a lovely brunch, and listen to Sarah Palin speak. She didn’t say anything you haven’t already heard: she spoke about her accomplishments, about John McCain’s accomplishments, about cleaning house in Washington, and about Obama’s association with Bill Ayers. She gave a funny apology for the Couric interview, saying that the fault was hers, because she wanted to talk about substance, and Couric kept asking her insubstantial questions that frustrated her.
It’s always interesting to see in person someone you’ve only seen on TV, especially someone you’ve seen only in two settings: before hostile interviewers or before tens of thousands of adoring fans. In the more “intimate” setting of an approving, well-informed audience of 1,200, she was a true star. Her rhythm is just great. She knows how to time things, and she makes the whole speech sound very personal.
Palin had no teleprompter, just some notes in front of her, to which she referred occasionally. She sounded very conversational and, the more conversational she sounded, the more charming she got. Everyone sitting there (and everyone reading this post) knows and admires a woman just like her. These women work with you, they carpool with you, they hang out at your kids sports with you, they’re at the bus stop, and sometimes you just socialize with them: they’re funny, warm, incredibly competent, well-organized, attractive without being threatening. It’s of these women that you always hear other women say “I’d hate her if she wasn’t so nice” — with “hate” being the operative term for, “I’m incredibly jealous of this woman who makes me look lazy and incompetent,” but she’s just too delightful not to enjoy.
Watching Sarah, and feeling the enthusiasm and warmth in the room, made me realize that there is still hope for this campaign. McCain has been declared politically dead over and over in the past two years, and he keeps coming back. He’s a warrior, not some weenie guy who slinks away in the night. And William Kristol reminds us that, in the waning days of the most bizarre campaign in American history, despair is our enemy (emphasis mine):
The odds are against John McCain and Sarah Palin winning this election. It’s not easy to make up a 6-point deficit in the last four weeks. But it can be done.
Look at history. The Gore-Lieberman ticket gained about 6 points in the final two weeks of the 2000 campaign. Ford-Dole came back more than 20 points in less than two months in the fall of 1976. Both tickets were from the party holding the White House, and both were running against inexperienced, and arguably risky, opponents.
What’s more, this year’s race has already–twice–moved by more than 6 points over a span of only a few weeks. The race went from McCain up 2 (these are the Real Clear Politics averages) on September 14 to Obama plus 6 on October 2, less than three weeks later. In the four weeks before that, the race had moved from Obama plus 5 on August 12 to McCain plus 2 on September 12.
So while there’s reason for McCain-Palin supporters to worry, there’s no reason to despair.
Despair is what the Obama campaign is hoping and working for. If a campaign can convince supporters of the other candidate that the race is effectively over, the enthusiasm and volunteer efforts drop off–as does, ultimately, their turnout on Election Day. Just as important, undecided and loosely affiliated voters become persuaded there’s no real contest and lose any incentive to look closely at the candidates. This explains the efforts of the Obama campaign–aided by a colluding media–to sell the notion that the race is over, that McCain supporters should give up, and undecided voters should tune out.
Don’t despair. It’s not over ’til it’s over. Obama is worse than we thought, and McCain is better than we often give him credit for being. And Sarah is a great politician, with a wonderful future no matter what happens. All is not lost.
UPDATE: A post from another blogger who was there and felt that same enthusiasm, with a bit more substance, too, than my impressionistic post.
UPDATE II: Despite the enthusiasm, Melanie Morgan (who was there too) says that some of the movers and shakers want McCain to get off his derriere and do some moving and shaking of his own — and Palin did promise that he would.