Palin: Whatever Will Obama Do Next?

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José Reyes, looking ahead to the playoffs. Photo: Getty Images

Barack Obama, a man so cool he is possibly unable to physically sweat even after a rigorous workout, has been thrown off his game. Unless you've just come out of a coma, you know that Sarah Palin — first met with surprise, then disdain, then awe, and, finally, fear — has shaken up the race in ways Obama and the Democrats were totally unprepared for. The former front-runner is down in the polls, out of the media spotlight, and is now legally unable to use the word "lipstick." Some Democrats are freaking out as the sky falls on their presidential hopes for maybe the third or fourth time this campaign. While Obama's chances may not be quite so dire, most agree he needs to pull himself together and come up with a better way to counteract the Palin phenomenon.

• Karl Rove, informal adviser to John McCain, tells Obama to "remember he's running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president" if he wants to win. Obama's assaults on Palin "highlight his own tissue-thin résumé, waste precious time better spent reassuring voters he is up for the job, and diminish him — not her." [WSJ]

• Jennifer Rubin agrees with Rove, calling the Democratic hostility toward Palin "tactical foolishness." Obama, who "himself is becoming the subject of a new kind of scrutiny — from his own party," is "either distracted or obsessed," and voters "may conclude that his tone and lack of discipline make him a problematic choice for president." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Nate Silver believes that, "[o]f course, the Democrats ought not make it personal against Sarah Palin. That will fail." But there is "fertile" ground to take on Palin's positions and political problems, like Troopergate, and especially earmarks. Contra Rove, attacking Palin may not be a waste of time because she may "be a winning argument for McCain." [Five Thirty Eight]

• Mark Brown says Palin has "put the Democrats off balance," and implores the Obama campaign to "to take my advice concerning Palin and, repeat after me, leave her alone," at least "until the dust clears and they figure out a better way to go after her." [Chicago Sun-Times]

• Dean Barnett claims that despite giving it "the old college try," the "Obama campaign and its angry contingent of frothing media supporters" were unable to make Palin a "liability" when they had a chance — during her initial rollout. Since that window has closed, it would be best for the Obama campaign to "forget about Palin and get back on message." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Gail Collins responds to those Obama doomsayers who think all is lost: "You’re overreacting." As for Palin's domination of the news, just "chill for a few weeks until the debates start and let the Sarah Palin thing play itself out." [NYT]

• Monica Langley, Amy Chozick, and Elizabeth Holmes write that Republicans "remain giddy over the Palin boom" as Obama "is showing signs of being distracted by the enthusiasm generated by the McCain-Palin ticket and is planning a sharper message focused on economic anxiety." Yesterday, his "frustration bubbled over in the battleground state of Virginia, where he declared, 'Enough is enough.'" [WSJ]

• David Paul Kuhn and Bill Nichols report on widespread Democratic concerns about Obama's campaign. Obama is "frantically" trying "to combat Hurricane Sarah with a meat-and-potatoes economic message and an effort to identify McCain and Palin with an unpopular president," they write. But he'd have a better chance at succeeding "if that thematic strategy had begun months earlier." [Politico]

• Chris Cillizza examines Obama's recent tilt toward an angrier, more passionate campaign style, especially in response to the McCain campaign's "lipstick on a pig" faux-outrage. Will the new tone work? "It's hard to know." While "[v]oters like passionate candidates, politicians who believe (or at least appear to believe) in the positions they stake out ... those same voters often blanch at expressions of anger, believing it to be unbecoming of a president." [Fix/WP]

• Peter Nicholas also notes that "Obama has uncorked some thunderous lines in recent campaign stops, showing a measure of emotion the normally unflappable candidate has seldom displayed," a "feistiness" that "many Democratic elected officials have longed to see." [LAT]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.