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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Take John McCain, add Sarah Palin, and presto!
Palin electrified the Republican base, energized America and discombobulated the Democrats.
Palin electrified the Republican base, energized America and discombobulated the Democrats.
Credit:Joeff Davis

Pat yourself on the back, America.

For the first time in 32 years, neither a Bush nor a Clinton appears on the national ticket for either major political party.


Now that America has dispatched its two reigning political families to temporary political oblivion (Hillary, Chelsea and Jeb are still lurking out there), we are poised to make history by electing the first black president or the first female vice president. Let the mudslinging begin.

Credit on this score goes to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat, for his recent remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, putting the choice into sharp focus: "If you want change, you want the Democratic Party. Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus. Pontius Pilate was a governor."

Okay, we get it...Obama plays Christ (yay!) in this year's presidential contest, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the politician who condemns Christ to death (boo!).

Setting aside that Christ was a carpenter by training and Pilate the prefect of the Roman Judea province, Cohen's crude attempt to cast the choice as Jesus Obama vs. Pontius Palin set a new low for Washington stupidity.

Not outrageous enough for you? South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler said Palin's "primary qualification [for vice president] seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion." No really, she said this.

All of this demonstrates how dramatically the race changed when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee. Not only did Palin electrify the Republican base, she energized America and discombobulated Democrats. In one brilliant stroke, McCain put horsepower ("moosepower"?) back into his campaign with the moose-hunting, gun-toting, hockey mom governor of Alaska.

Palin wasn't just a "game changer" pick, she's a party-changing pick. It puts the future of the Republican Party back into the hands of principled conservatives and in the moose-dressing hands of a woman not afraid to fight for conservative principles.

Earlier this year, McCain's mother, 95-year-old Roberta McCain, bemoaned that conservatives will just have to "hold their noses" and vote for her son this year. Asked about his support among the party's conservative base, she said, "I don't think he has any."

But all that has changed. The conservative base is on board McCain's Straight Talk Express, and no nose-holding is required.

A year ago, John McCain's quest for the Republican nomination was considered dead. After breaking bread with Teddy Kennedy on illegal immigration, McCain was carrying his own suits through airports as he rushed to hop aboard another commercial flight to Nowheresville.

Seen as a cranky old man from Arizona, a genuine American war hero whose time had come and gone, McCain's presidential preference numbers among Republicans remained mired in single digits. Movement conservatives looked instead to Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee and even Rudy Giuliani for salvation.

And then Sarah Palin showed up and changed everything.

Democrats first dismissed Palin as an unprepared, unknown lightweight, a brunette version of America's Sweetheart, Doris Day.

Then came her speech in St. Paul. Articulate, well-delivered, tough, personable, a profoundly normal family...and 40 million people were watching. It must have been a very depressing night for Democrats counting on a not-ready-for-prime-time performance from Palin.

By contrast, McCain's convention speech was, well, more conventional. But McCain was at his best when embracing school choice.

"We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition [and] empower parents with choice.... When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them."

McCain deserves credit for courageously saying that throwing money at public schools is not a recipe for improving results and that only competition can raise standards and improve performance. Gotta love the man for taking on the most sacred cow monopoly in America.

After the convention, McCain and Palin hit the road with an aggressive and populist agenda: getting our financial house back in order, committing America to energy independence, achieving victory in Iraq, appointing strict constructionist judges to the courts, cutting taxes, fighting for smaller government and taking on the business-as-usual culture in Washington.

Who would have thought that McCain could have picked Barack's pocket on the issues of change and reform? But he did, with breathtaking effectiveness.

Several polls show that Palin Power has put Reagan Democrats and working moms back into play. These are the voters who gave Reagan his big victories in 1980 and 1984 before being driven away from the Republican Party by Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Obama also thought he had white women in his hip pocket, but his lead of about 11 points among white women reversed into a 13-point McCain lead after the Republican convention.

At 72, McCain is poised to do what needs to be done to achieve victory in Iraq and make the tough decisions on the economy. Should the 72-year-old serve a single term, it may well set up a presidential showdown between Vice President Sarah Palin and Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2012, making that race eligible for pay-per-view status.

But the biggest joke of all would be, after all the hoopla surrounding the rise of Barack Obama, if this cranky old man from Arizona turns out to be the change we've really been waiting for all along.

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