Let's face it. John McCain's a loner with a stern, "it's-a-dangerous-world" message and fairly cold eyes. He isn't charismatic. And no one can accuse him of being a sunny guy. In fact, he's better known for his short, hot temper. So how's McCain going to overcome America's infatuation with Barack Obama — a man who has bewitched voters with his smile, enchanted youth with the novelty of his candidacy and lured war-weary Americans with his message of "change" and promises of free, universal everything?
The answer is clear. McCain needs Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin, who will connect with voters as an authentic American folk hero.
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First, as a governor, she passes the competence test. American voters have shown again and again they will vote governors into the White House. There's Clinton. Carter. Bush the Younger. Reagan.
So why not Palin, a heartbeat away from the aged McCain?
But more important, she's the governor of a state that captures the imagination and embodies the authentic American folk narrative. Alaska is our last frontier.
Remember Horace Greeley's "Go west, young man, go west!" Not to worry that this phrase is often wrongly attributed to Horatio Alger. Americans remember that the west is where freedom and opportunity still exist. The west is where optimism resides. Even if they don't think about it, Americans still feel it.
That's where Palin's personal biography will prevail.
Palin is as continental west as west can be; and Alaska is a nice contrast to Obama's Hawaiian roots. Even better, Palin carries a gun! She hunts! I'll bet she can skin and process a deer in under 10 minutes. Take that al-Qaida!
Come to think of it, she might actually be able to hunt down Osama bin Laden. And America has loved hunters and deer slayers since at least 1823, when James Fenimore Cooper gave America its first universally accepted folk hero, the Deerslayer, in The Pioneers.
And then, there's the obvious fact that she's a woman. If McCain was going to pull from the Democratic middle-age female base that fueled Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy, he needed to look beyond the white male.
Think of all the voters who supported Clinton simply because they thought she could crack the highest glass ceiling. Palin will attract these disaffected voters who are looking for someone to vote for other than Obama.
And then there's the fact that Palin has five kids. Five. Including one who has Down syndrome. That shows voters that she's for real and can actually relate to the lives of real voters, people who love, feel and suffer.
It was important for McCain to pick a running mate who makes people feel better. Palin is as compelling, youthful and charismatic as McCain is not.
Her video clips remind you of Reagan's optimism. Her down-to-earth manner exudes the hope that Republicans need to win. We can almost imagine her on the cover of People magazine with her family gathered around her and her gun rack in the background.
Palin is the perfect complement for McCain and the perfect antidote to Obama.
Nanette Everson is a former White House counsel.