She chucked her famously expensive designer clothes, ditched some campaign-approved comments, and, on Sunday, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin donned blue jeans and before a packed arena in Asheville, N.C., sang along lustily to the country hit "Redneck Woman."
(Refrain: "I'm a redneck woman; I ain't no high-class broad.")
The down-home sing-along with country artist Gretchen Wilson, and Monday's appearance before several thousand supporters in the woods of Virginia, came as John McCain's running mate has appeared increasingly determined to shake off the strictures of her handlers—not to mention her Nieman Marcus outfits. And it comes at a time when the Alaska governor is seeking to preserve her unique brand, which just two months ago was crucial to energizing the GOP base but now is under attack even within the McCain-Palin campaign.
For days, the "Blame Palin" faction in McCain's struggling effort has been taking potshots at the Alaska governor, whose popularity has plummeted in national polls but remains strong on the stump. She's a "diva" who is "off message" and lacks understanding of issues. And, shockingly, she's looking out for her "own political future." And why shouldn't she? Election Day is just a week away, and with a McCain victory looking like a long shot by any current measure, Palin's supporters envision the 44-year-old mother of five emerging as a player for years to come, someone who could battle Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for party primacy.
What has emerged is a parallel "Blame the McCain campaign" faction—chief among them Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and former Reagan national campaign director Ed Rollins, who also chaired Huckabee's presidential run this year. Though Palin has been roundly criticized for her lack of experience, particularly with foreign issues, and for her stumbling performance during interviews with CBS's Katie Couric, there has been a growing consensus among a cadre of conservative strategists that it has been McCain's powerful campaign strategists who messed things up.
And, without debating whether Palin is prepared to lead the country if necessary (polls show that a majority of Americans don't think so), the strategists have been arguing that her campaign has been handled badly in several ways:
So is Palin now looking out for herself as the "Blame Palin" game takes aim? To quote the final line of "Redneck Woman": "Hell, yeah!"