Assessing the Palin pregnancy

Does it matter that Sarah Palin’s daughter is pregnant?

The news that Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant “probably won’t change the political landscape,” said John Dickerson in Slate, “especially since Barack Obama declared it out of bounds.” But it’s a pretty good metaphor for “the gestating and growing surprises associated with the Palin candidacy.” Three days after John McCain named her as his running mate, Palin’s revelations and reversals are making McCain’s “Hail Mary pass” look reckless and short-sighted.

Airing the Palin family’s dirty laundry is meant to “discredit or undermine” Palin, said Charles Mahtesian in Politico, but it “may have the opposite effect.” So far, the Palins’ travails “probably seem awfully familiar to many average Americans.” And in an election “where the voting calculus is so unusually and intensely personal,” her familiar struggles could be a huge advantage for the McCain ticket.

It has certainly not hurt with one key constituency, said Bryon York in National Review Online. Many evangelical Christians say they were moved by the Palin story, and how the family chose life in a difficult situation. Things may change, but McCain "has never been more popular among evangelicals than he is at this moment."

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Bristol Palin’s unplanned pregnancy is common enough, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post’s PostPartisan blog, but surely it’s unusual to subject your pregnant 17-year-old daughter to “the klieg-light scrutiny of a presidential campaign.” That was Sarah Palin’s choice, and it raises legitimate questions about her judgment and priorities. “Would you do that to your daughter?”

Come to your own conclusions about Palin’s daughter, and other emerging stories about her, said Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo. But “fundamentally, of course, this is about John McCain.” His team clearly “didn’t do any serious vetting of Palin before he invited her to join his ticket,” and that “slapdash decision” raises serious questions about his, not her, judgment.

Look, “that the vice presidential candidate’s teenage daughter is pregnant is not news,” said Rochelle Riley in the Detroit Free Press. It doesn’t say anything about Palin’s family values or her qualifications to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, just like Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, doesn’t have any bearing on his qualifications. These distractions avoid the important issues, “and both sides should be ashamed.”

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