Source at TNR: Underestimate Palin at your peril

I’m going to interrupt my breathing into a paper bag about the Blotter’s Troopergate story — the only source for which is a Democrat, do note — to bring you this rare shot of optimism, just because it’s the third instance I’ve heard something like this in the past 24 hours. KP, an Alaska native, tells me via e-mail that the word back home is she’s a “phenomenal politician … [who] just blows people away and tunes out the media and criticism.” That jibes with this too-good-to-check Bill Kristol anecdote about Palin all but laughing at McCain staffers fretting that she can’t stand up to media scrutiny. And now here’s another Alaska source warning TNR that the left shouldn’t invest too heavily in its fantasies of reducing her to a blubbering puddle. The Democrats, ironically, seem to have bought into the “ordinary gal” image even more totally than the right has; they’re actually starting pools about when she’ll finally wilt under the pressure and beg off the ticket. Put me down for “never”:

She’s just a small town mayor, just a hockey mom, just a beauty pageant queen. Palin has never shunned these belittling monikers, in part, I imagine, because the camouflage has served her so well. Soothed by the litany, her opponents tend to sleep too late, sneer too much, and forget who it is that hires them.

Watching Palin operate over the past few years has been like witnessing a dramatic reading of All the King’s Men

What the Republicans missed about Sarah Palin then–and what the Democrats seem poised to miss now–is that she is a true political savant; a candidate with a knack for identifying the key gripes of the populace and packaging herself as the solution. That keen political nose has enabled her to routinely outperform her resume. Nearly two years into her administration, she still racks up approval ratings of 80 per cent or better…

[I]n probing this candidate, it would behoove the Democrats and the pundits to shed the notion that they are dealing with some dimwitted bumpkin (Dan Quayle seems to come up a lot lately) who’s going to start crying when they ask her to name the president of Azerbaijan; or that Palin is the townie who was brought into the Skull & Bones initiation night for the amusement of all; or that somehow the prom queen ballots got mixed up with the Alaska gubernatorial poll. Trivialize her at your own peril.

Sarah Palin is a living reminder that the ultimate source of political power in this country is not the Kennedy School or the Davos Summit or an Ariana Huffington salon; even now, power emanates from the electorate itself. More precisely, power in 2008 emanates from the working class electorates of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Don’t believe him? Read through this indispensable Time magazine story, dateline Wasilla, for a description of the sort of hardball Mayor Palin used to play. The hockey mom evidently knows how to use social issues to her advantage. Exit question about the Troopergate story: What’s the Democrat in charge of the investigation doing leaking about what it’s “likely” to conclude? If they’ve finished gathering their facts, go ahead and put out the report. If they haven’t, then how can he conclude what’s likely? And, follow-up question: Assuming for the sake of argument that McCain didn’t vet her down to the atomic level, surely the Troopergate thing at least was thoroughly vetted, no? It’s set to drop on October 31 and has the potential to finish him if it’s damaging. That would be the one thing, I think, they have a foot-thick binder of information on.