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Sarah Palin: Do Her Looks Help or Hurt the Ticket?

John on August 30, 2008 at 12:32 am

I think it’s fair to say American’s have never had a candidate for high office who looks like Sarah Palin. Let’s face it, some of our best Presidents weren’t much to look at. Lincoln? Taft? Perhaps it was Kennedy who changed all that with his suntanned debate appearance vs. a sweaty Dick Nixon. But to paraphrase another VP pick of not so long ago, I’ve seen pics of Kennedy and he was no Sarah Palin.

You’ve probably heard by now that she was 1st runner-up for Miss Alaska back in 1984. That was quite a few years ago but you wouldn’t know it from some of the reactions she’s getting.  Rush Limbaugh declared today that we now have “a babe on the ticket.” I’m sure that comment didn’t help McCain win over any Hillary voters, but he’s not wrong.

On paper, this probably seemed like just one more plus for the McCain camp. In reality I think Palin’s attractiveness could backfire. I have to be careful what I say here, but I think it’s possible Palin is a bit too attractive for McCain’s own good. While it’s true that beauty draws attention, something McCain wants, it’s also true that attractiveness, like gravity, has a way of distorting everything around it.

For instance, Michelle Malkin has already noted the attention being directed (by reporters no less) not to Palin’s bio but her booty. Is this really helpful to a campaign trying to present gravitas as opposed to celebrity? Obama may have the fainting fans like Britney, but Palin has her looks (give or take 20 years).

Need more proof this could turn out to be a net negative if camp McCain isn’t careful? The current headline story on Yahoo is titled “Beyond Palin’s Politics” Clicking on the link takes you to this Yahoo Buzz piece about what people are searching related to Palin:

Curious folks are looking up Palin’s stance on abortion and religion, as well as whether or not she’s currently under an ethics investigation. The search data on those terms are impressive, but not as impressive as the queries on “sarah palin vogue magazine.”

Back on the Yahoo home page, the link after the Buzz piece — I kid you not — reads “Her workout, eating habits.” People don’t usually look for fitness tips from a VP candidate. Clearly that’s because nearly all of them have been old, overweight men. Still, there’s the potential for a category error to build up here that could become a problem down the line.

And the Yahoo stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more beneath the waterline, most of which is just too gross to link. For now, check how many sites Google returns for “Palin milf.” Cafepress already has T-shirts for sale. That’s after one day! And trust me, it’s only going to get more graphic and extreme as we get closer to the election. In fact, I predict Larry Flynt will offer Palin money to appear in one of his magazines before September’s out. It’s one more distraction team McCain doesn’t need heading down the stretch.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Palin was a very positive pick. This is easily the most positive I’ve personally felt about the campaign all summer. And I’m not alone. Tonight I had dinner with a friend who told me that he felt his McCain apathy lift on news of this pick. I’m guessing lots of people are having that reaction all across America.

There’s no doubt she’s going to energize the base and has the potential to woo moderate women voters. (And contrary to what Chuck Shumer says, I think she may surprise everyone in the debate with Biden.) But the fact remains that she’s going to have to speak loudly (and probably slowly) to be heard above the hormone-laden din her looks have already begun to generate.

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Category: Politics |

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