McCain’s bet was to choose someone to reinforce his “brand” as a reformer, willing to take on established interests, even inside his own party. McCain-Palin is a “Maverick Squared” ticket, bringing in someone that came to attention because of her whistle-blowing on ethics violations by Republican officials. Whether she is or isnt a maverick, it doesnt matter: the point is she is *seen* as a reformer, a young, up-and-coming new conservative. With her, the GOP now shares the “Change” theme formerly monopolized by the Obama campaign. It’s one of the reasons why her choice is energizing the GOP.

Democrats should pay attention and frame the criticism very carefully.

This election (like most of recent elections) will not be decided by left or right, but by independents on five or six swing states. They are white, uneducated, blue-collar working class in the Rust Belt. Their vote is not ideological, but personal.

Criticisms on Sarah Palin range from being an inexperienced hick, an evangelical pro-life, the husband’s DUI, a house full of kids and, to top it off, a pregnant teen daughter.

These criticisms highlight the fact she is the only one with executive past (dealing with the oil industry and pipeline agreements) and emphasizes her down-to-earth, next-door demeanor. Her pro-life stance puts Obama’s anti-abortion position in the spotlight for the middle-ground voters that are pro-life yet favor choice.

Five kids and teen pregnancy may not be common among college-educated west coasters, but the GOP didnt want to connect with these groups anyway; they were lost a long time ago. Moose-hunting and snowmobile-driving make good jokes in Boston, San Francisco and Austin, but in Middle America it sparks a different plug.

In rusty Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, far away from Ivy League and hybrid cars, Sarah Palin is just, well… normal.

And that is where presidents get elected.

* * *

The most interesting fact of the week: how the Left condemned and ridiculed Palin’s daughter pregnancy on religious, almost Puritan grounds, while evangelical Christians largely protected the girl. It makes sense: religious conservatives, who see this happening all the time, know man as a sinner and are not surprised.

In West Virginia, 17% of teen pregnancies end in abortion, compared to 50% in Massachusetts. The more Democrats keep the focus on Palin’s daughter pregnancy, more the GOP ticket relates to the swing states.