More than any other reason, this is why McCain is finished if he dumps her. The sentiment is palpable among our readers; the desperate viciousness of some of the attacks on her really admits no other conclusion. If it works and the left beats her at the polls, Republicans will mourn, but if McCain hands them her scalp, god help him.

Because she jumbles up so many cultural categories, because she is a feminist not in the Yale Gender Studies sense but the How Do I Reload This Thang way, because she is a woman who in style, history, moxie and femininity is exactly like a normal American feminist and not an Abstract Theory feminist; because she wears makeup and heels and eats mooseburgers and is Alaska Tough, as Time magazine put it; because she is conservative, and pro-2nd Amendment and pro-life; and because conservatives can smell this sort of thing — who is really one of them and who is not — and will fight to the death for one of their beleaguered own; because of all of this she is a real and present danger to the American left, and to a future Obama candidacy.

She could become a transformative political presence.

So they are going to have to kill her, and kill her quick.

And it’s going to be brutal. It’s already getting there…

I think the left will go hard on this: Fringe. Radical. What goes on in her church? Isn’t she extreme? Does she really think God wants a pipeline? What does Sarah Barracuda really mean? They’re going to try and make her strange, outré, oddball. And not in a good way.

In all this, and in its involvement in this week’s ritual humiliation of a 17-year-old girl, the mainstream press may seriously overplay its hand, and court a backlash that impacts the election. More on that in a moment.

Follow the link and read that “more in a moment” for yourself. Even by Noonan’s standards, it’s a dynamite piece. What are the odds of the press overplaying its hand? Reasonably good: See, e.g., Jonathan Martin’s piece at Politico blithely dismissing conservative critiques of the nastiness of the coverage as pro forma GOP demagoguery hardly worth taking seriously. Even better, see this canny Mark Halperin flowchart of why there’s suddenly such a feeding frenzy around the Barracuda. It’s incomplete — Patterico and Jessica’s Well can fill in some of the blanks — but otherwise right on target. Purely rhetorical exit question: Of the two tracks Halperin lays out, which do you suppose reporters themselves are more passionately invested in?