As the email chains show every day, a constant barrage of criticism and false accusations keep flowing against Palin. The Democrat campaign followed through, with Obama and Biden questioning Palin’s skills and record. Republicans celebrate what they see as proof of liberal desperation. But these attacks not only don’t work, they also make things worse for the Obama campaign as they try to lure the few undecided voters still out there.

It’s worse for him for three reasons: bad time usage, bad record comparison, and bad attention.

All those attacks keep the focus on the republican ticket; it’s all about Palin. Every attack on Palin is precious time wasted on her. At the same time, criticism on records only highlights Obama’s own thin and still largely unknown resume’. And due to circumstances, each attack risks being converted into bad attention: if it’s too weak it’s a condescending remark, if it’s too strong it’s a sexist smear.

Polls have shown most of the voters are concerned about Obama readiness. He should spend time reassuring voters he is up for the job.

When Obama analysed Palin’s experience, he compared her Wasilla mayoral stint (“a town with 50 employees”) with his own campaign management of “thousands of people and millions of dollars”. It sounded condescending and put focus on his own lack of executive experience. That kind of “experience” will hardly impress those undecided voters in Virginia or North Carolina.

Biden has to learn how to deal with Palin in a critical but positive way. To say she’s “obviously a backwards step for women” is a mistake: a historically oppressed group wont enjoy being told what to think. Instead, Democrats should play down Palin’s role in the feminist world by showcasing other powerful women in their own party, from Pelosi to Clinton.

Talking down Palin generates bad attention and will rally women’s votes, marginalizing a group that was overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Until now. Before Palin, white women were leaning 50% for Obama to 42% for McCain, according to ABC News/Washington Post polling. Now numbers have shifted to 53% for McCain and just 41% for Obama among white women.

Obama blasted Palin’s record on earmarks: “you been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person.” It’s true, but Governor Palin also has a record of cutting requests for federal dollars. That kind of focus is bad: people will naturally seek the counterpart in Obama, looking for the “right” way of doing it, and will find out the Senator has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, more each year he’s been in the Senate. It could have been worse: Biden’s son is a lobbyist himself.

Palin is likeable and her lifestory compelling. People can relate to her, as she impersonates the mythical countryside, living-from-the-land, small-town values, a place where “things are simple and people talk straight”:

But she sees Palin as someone like her, someone who understands her life and her struggles. “She’s a mother of five,” marveled Conklin, herself a single mom working as an anesthesiologist and researcher at the University of Virginia. “I only have one, and I know how tired I am at the end of the day.” Also like Palin, Conklin hails from a tiny town in West Texas. (“We didn’t even have a McDonald’s,” she recalled.) And she admires that Palin “started small” and succeeded without riding anyone else’s coattails. “She is the epitome of the American success story in politics,” said Conklin.

Democrats should sway the focus to McCain, who lacks voter’s enthusiasm even among republicans. Focusing on Palin is bad tactics.

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