Friday, September 12, 2008


On August 29, John McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate, stunned everyone by picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Till that day, very few people outside Alaska had hear of her. But on that day, everyone saw that McCain had picked a stunner.

Sarah Palin, is a former beauty queen and was runner up in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984. In 1988, she worked briefly as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV. In 1989, she eloped with her high school boyfriend Todd Palin. The couple now have five children, the youngest being just four months old. Sarah Palin’s 17 years old daughter is five months pregnant and intends to keep the baby and marry the father of the child.

She clearly has negligible experience for the job. Her political career began in 1992. She was for two terms Mayor of Wasilla, a small town/village of about 6000 people. In 2006, she became Alaska’s first woman Governor and, at 42, the youngest ever. Alaska is a remote state whose population of under 700,000 is less than that of many Indian towns.

Palin obtained her passport for the first time only in 2007, when she travelled to Kuwait to meet Alaskan National soldiers and to Germany to meet wounded soldiers. Her opponents say with some justification that her exposure to foreign affairs is limited to her interactions with Washington from distant Alaska!

These facts alone certainly could not have motivated McCain to pick her as the one Republican best suited to take over as the President of the most powerful nation in the world, should something happen to him.

Yet, ever since she has entered the electoral fray, its dynamics have undergone a dramatic change. The focus has substantially shifted from McCain to her. And, as per the latest opinion polls, Obama has lost the big lead that he had opened up between him and McCain after his famous acceptance speech. In fact the latest Fox news and Gallop polls show him trailing McCain by three and four percentage points respectively.

What really has Sarah Palin brought to the campaign that has brought about this surge? How much do her looks have to do with the rejuvenation being witnessed in the McCain camp?

According to an unrelated report on Tuesday by Flemish broadcaster VRT, a study by the University of Leuven has found an inverse relationship between testosterone levels and price awareness among males. This “naked women effect” shows that men who are exposed to naked women stop paying attention to prices and become “gullible sheep”. The study also found a similar effect on men exposed to scantily clad women.

Remember what happened immediately after Sarah Palin’s nomination? Fake photographs showing her naked and scantily clad appeared on the net, drawing immense traffic and causing a virtual meltdown. American men obviously went over the moon to just to see her unclothed. Subsequently, Sarah Palin dolls made an appearance showing her as a tough and armed version of the very pretty and ageless Barbie.

Has Sarah Palin managed to turn some American men into “gullible sheep” who have stopped paying attention to the price that they collectively might have to pay should Sarah Palin become the VP and even the President?

Has McCain consciously hit the winning button by picking a beauty queen? He knows how to do that. His first wife, Carol, was a successful swimwear model in Philadelphia. He divorced her after 15 years to marry Cindy, "a poster girl with big money", who was 18 years his junior. Carol attributed that marriage to “John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again.” He is now 72 and has picked an almost unknown running mate who is very pretty and 28 years younger.

Will the “Sara Palin Effect” last till November 4? Will Obama be able to find a way to get a lot of men to shed their blinkers and get back into focus to decide on real merit who they want to see in Washington? Will he also be able to win back the white women voters who, as per some polls, have gone over to the Palin camp?

Obama has a tough fight on his hand. McCain was almost a sitting duck for him till Sarah Palin took the Republican centre stage. Now he has to deal with an unfamiliar challenge which possibly cannot be taken on conventionally, not in less than two months in any case. Will he rise to the occasion and find an answer? Or has McCain picked a winner?

Read Part 2 here.