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September 3, 2008 7:28 PM

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Hoping to Hit the Gas

Coming off the high-octane Democratic National Convention last week in Denver, I expected the Republicans to at least put on an energetic, if more subdued, political show.But in the wake of Hurricane Gustav and the controversy swirling around the choice...

Coming off the high-octane Democratic National Convention last week in Denver, I expected the Republicans to at least put on an energetic, if more subdued, political show.

But in the wake of Hurricane Gustav and the controversy swirling around the choice of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain's choice as vice president, all the pizzazz was sucked out of the room. Even the red, white and blue balloons waiting in the rafters were a reminder that the anticipated party has not gone quite as planned.


Beyond the buzz in the air about Palin and her personal and political baggage, there is the bigger picture question of whether the Republicans will really reap anything from this flat convention. Issues aside, observers generally agree the Democrats and nominee Barack Obama hit one out of the stadium in his final night acceptance speech.

Political scientists around the country say McCain's tough maverick image and unpredictable nature will appeal to the public despite all the disruptions to his convention in St. Paul. The blessing in disguise for McCain, of course, was not having to share the stage with President Bush, one of the most unpopular presidents in history. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who has also fallen out of favor with some in his party, cancelled their appearances scheduled for Monday night to monitor Gustav.

In the words of Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University, in the keynote speech Thursaday night, the Arizona senator just "needs to be John McCain" to win over the public and recapture some of the momentum he lost to the Democrats and Obama.

"He is not Obama. He needs to talk about his life and experience, and how he will lead the country," said Black, adding McCain must focus on Palin's strengths in his acceptance speech  Thursday. "He has to say very strong things about his vice presidential running mate. This is an interesting ticket. It is a Western ticket and we've never had candidates from Arizona or Alaska on the same ticket."
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