The Age of Palin Draws to a Close

Now the main event gets untracked—John McCain versus Barack Obama.

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ST. PAUL—It seems hard to believe that Sarah Palin week is finally drawing to a close. One almost wonders why, since she gave her acceptance speech last night, the Republicans are having another night of convention. Oh yeah: She's not running for president.

This is not merely snark, there's a larger point here. The Palin boomlet has been fascinating, but it too shall pass: People vote for presidential candidates, not presidential tickets.

Ultimately this comes down to Barack Obama and John McCain.

It's been a truly strange week here in Minnesota, with the Republican Party suddenly the bulwark of aggressive feminism and defender of teenage pregnancy. The cynicism with which they have pursued their "Sarah Palin is being hounded by the sexist media, just like Hillary Clinton" story-line has been breathtaking.

But political conventions are fantasy echo chambers only sometimes connected to the real world (though of course sometimes the real world intrudes as when Monday night was essentially canceled due to Gulf Coast weather). After McCain speaks tonight the playground gets packed away for four more years.

And in a week Sarah Palin is no longer the dominant news story unless another small town scandal pops or until it's the Killa From Wasilla versus the Joey the Mouth in St. Louis in early October.

The dominant news story will be Obama versus McCain and who gets to claim the mantel of change agent. Palin and Biden become what all vice presidential candidates are—supporting actors, not leads.

For a case in point on the effect vice presidential candidates (even energetic, historic ones) have on the election consider a couple of focus groups conducted during her speech. Palin's favorability rose 10 points; but McCain's standing vis a vis Obama moved not an inch.