Polarizing Palin IS Just Like a Camaro

Raines Bemoans Rise of 'Wal-mart, Nascar, Holy Roller Strain' in U.S.

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Back when John McCain first picked Sarah Palin as his VP choice, we ran a story comparing the moose-slaying Alaskan governor to a Camaro. While that headline ran the risk of objectifying Palin (though the other candidates received their own vehicular assignments) and seeming a bit trite, the more I think about it, the more perfect it seems. After all, while there is a certain breed of American who loves the Camaro, there is also a large segment of the population who wouldn't be caught dead in one.

Time and CNN are co-hosting a political summit in New York this week. As you can imagine a summit held by the media for the media on the edge of New York's Upper West Side isn't exactly going to be Republican-friendly territory. At a panel discussing "Media Power vs. Political Power" yesterday, two people out of close to 100 in attendance had voted Republican in the last election. That said, the anti-Palin fever was palpable among both the crowd and the panelists -- you know, the sort of folks who drive Volvos and Saabs and such.

Howell Raines perhaps summed up the feeling best when he mentioned how happy he was when he left the South that he'd never have to deal with stock-car racing and holy rollers again. Raines went on, noting that: "We are now living in Nascar America. ... That Wal-mart, Nascar, holy-roller strain is on the march." Raines also pointed out that Mike Huckabee's primary showing was an example of the "rednecks" and "hillbillies" finally putting the Republican Party on notice that it could no longer take their money while ignoring their demands. Now all of this strikes me as accurate. But it also strikes me as exactly the sort of polarizing comment that lets a Sarah Palin yell about elitism. Perhaps Raines was simply giving as good as he got -- taking off his "elite" gloves and firing back with both barrels. (Or perhaps he was once beaten up by a born-again Nascar driver.)

The other panel, which dealt with advertising and politics, didn't have a single Republican on it (Alex Castellanos dropped out at the last minute). But the ad panel -- BusinessWeek's Jon Fine, A-political's Jimmy Siegel, Documania Films' Jeffrey Tuchman, Erwin-Penland's Joe Erwin and Mark Walsh, who headed up John Kerry's internet operations in 2004 -- seemed much more able to keep their "professional" hats on when the topic of Palin the Polarizer came up. Even though when asked by an audience member if Palin was ready to take command, each responded no, but each also tried to explain her appeal to that other half of the population. And each figured she'd do a fine job if she actually appears on "Saturday Night Live" -- partly because she has personality, partly because the "SNL" writers won't have the balls to make her look bad.

At any rate, the bottom line is that in picking Palin, McCain did rally a large segment of the population. But he also turned off another large segment. Sure, many of those people were never going to vote for him, but there are a number of independents, contrarians and war-issue voters who were completely turned off by her. David Brooks called Palin -- or the Palin candidacy -- as a "fatal cancer" on the Republican Party, the embodiment of anti-intellectualism and the rejection of ideas.

Some folks like the blunt force of the Camaro. Some folks hate it. The question still remains which contingent will show up in greater numbers on election day. Still, perhaps McCain should have gone with a nice sturdy Cadillac --made in America, but still with a touch of class. (Also, those Kate Walsh ads are super sexy).

On that note, who would have been a Cadillac choice for McCain?
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