Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press this afternoon sums up the extent to which the Republicans are essentially betting the presidential election on their neophyte vice presidential nominee:

If there were any doubts that the sidekick was stealing the show, they were put to rest when Sarah Palin took off for Alaska with a wave from the tarmac by John McCain.

His crowds suddenly dwindled. The exuberant cheering heard day after day during two weeks of joint appearances went away. And the Republican presidential candidate’s schedule began to resemble the lightness of May instead of the full throttle of September. . . .This was a striking week to see the contrast between McCain and Palin together and the dimmed wattage around the nominee when they are apart. . . .

The lesson from all of this isn’t lost on McCain. Campaigns usually split up their presidential and vice presidential candidates so the ticket can cover more ground, which is what Obama and his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, are doing. This could be especially important because the late conventions shortened the general-election season.

But the McCain camp has calculated it needs to put him back with his No. 2, and probably keep them together for much of the fall campaign.

Until they are back together, McCain has no rallies and not much going on.

You have to admit, it’s been a clever bait-and-switch — let Barack Obama’s team spend months gearing up for a campaign against John McCain, then say, "Hey! Now you’re running against Sarah Palin… whaddaya think of those apples?"

Of course, the scheme’s success depends largely on Palin riding the perceived success of her convention speech last week all the way through to November 4th. Already, we’ve seen her stumble awkwardly in her first major interview, despite intensive preparation. Meanwhile, Palin’s husband has been subpoenaed in the Troopergate investigate that the national GOP is trying its damnedest to stifle, questions are still bubbling up about her attempt to ban books from the Wasilla library… and who knows what will turn up next, either from research in Alaska or the next time Palin opens her mouth without a memorized script?

Not that they’re nervous or anything, but the McCain camp has already released not one but two ads trying to inoculate Palin against attacks that largely haven’t happened. Because they know if she goes down in flames, so do they.

It’s only been a week since the GOP convention, and her protective shield is already starting to fray. Can it last another seven and a half weeks?



Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (