Is This The McCain Campaign’s Next Headline Grabbing “Game Changer” Surprise?


Times Online reports that the campaign of Republican Presidential Senator John McCain may have a secret political weapon that would be a real October or November surprise — one that would be hard for the Barack Obama campaign to match:

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18, a respectable age for a bride — and the same age as Barack Obama’s pregnant mother when she married his Kenyan father. The Democrat has already declared Bristol’s private life off-limits as far as his campaign is concerned.

Could something like that really impact the campaign? The answer is: probably yes.

This is 21st century politics, operating in a 21st century newsmedia culture that’s dotted with newspapers battling shrinking circulations, coupled with a constant blog and cable media news cycle that demands to be fed flashy stuff constantly. Just look at the coverage O.J.’s trial in Vegas is getting. You can easily imagine the media rushing to Alaska for the wedding, providing live coverage on cable, huge headlines in tabloids, and images of Palin as a beaming grandmother on TV and in newspapers, trumping any negative political images, and raising her sagging positives in the polls.

It would be ironic — but not surprising, given the evolving political culture — if a landmark, close election was decided by the marriage of a Vice Presidential candidate’s daughter and celebrity-style coverage from a campaign that has made celebrity an issue. (Let’s not think about the political trend that the political benefits of the marriage could start…). It would re-inject the impact of personality over national issues in a big way and could end up a political positive.

On the other hand, it could also backfire and end in Tina Fey being contracted for yet another appearance and provide David Letterman with a week’s punch lines about a campaign timing a marriage to try and get votes.

NOTE: The first reaction on reading this story is “Well, this is just one paper and one news report.” But so many unexpected things have happened in Campaign 2008, it’s clear that anything could happen.

Andrew Sullivan:

Is this what McCain is now counting on? Shutting down the race in order not to lose it?

Josh Marshall:

I take everything I read about American politics in the British papers with a grain of salt. But giving what we’ve seen so far, I can’t say I’d be surprised if the moral jalopy that is the McCain-Palin Straight Talk Express sunk us even further into farce with something like this.

Pat Cunningham:

A so-called McCain insider is quoted as saying: “It would be fantastic. You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

Uhhhhhh, yeah. Sure it would.

Big Tent Democrat:

The strange thing is it very well may be McCain’s best bet.

Pam’s House Blend:

I wonder if it will boost them in the polls more than Jenna’s wedding did Bush’s approval rating.

These people are sick..

Ellis Weiner in The Huffington Post:

It’s not that “you can’t make this stuff up.” You can. But then your head would fall off. Now, however, you don’t have to run that risk. The Republican Party, with the straight face of the salesman lending you his pen to sign the purchase order for the world’s most horrible vacuum cleaner, has done it for you.

Mencken, thou shouldst be living at this hour. And you too, Twain. And, what the hell, all you guys and gals from ages past (Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, P.T. Barnum, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Altman, Sophie Tucker, Nathaniel West, Billy Wilder, John Dos Passos, etc.) who knew that America was (and still is, God damn it) that place of places where nothing is too brazen, nothing is too ludicrous or inane or mendacious or nakedly meretricious, that we can’t at least try it.

No More Mr. Nice Blog:

I don’t know if it’s really going to happen, but if it does, I think I know when we’ll hear more about it.


Yup — if it happens, I think the announcement will come right before the VP debate.

Perfect, right? It’ll be just like McCain’s alleged shutdown of his campaign — Team McCain will time it to steal the headlines from what’s expected to be an embarrassing Palin TV appearance.

  • Lit3Bolt

    Considering the bride would be pregnant, I think the only demographic that would sway would be the Jerry Springer vote (which should be in the tank for McCain anyway).

    Can you say cheap, tawdry political trick? The thing is, if the press were still on McCain’s side, maybe this would work. But as it is, blood is in the water and the sharks are writing their narratives…..

  • christoofar

    Not to mention the awkward photo-ops of McCain stiffly embracing the newlyweds, offering his standard rictus-like smile of approval. Not to mention Palin’s upcoming debate & her steadily downward trending approval ratings as more is known about her background.

  • MaryL

    If they announce this right before the debate, and Palin is less than impressive that night, this is actually going to be counter-productive.

    And no matter when it’s announced, I think it still won’t be a net positive. Given the lousy economic situation, a lot of voters are less impressed by peripheral issues related to personality that they would have been a few weeks ago.

  • JSpencer

    I wish the happy couple the best, it can be a tough world out there and they will need all the luck they can get. That said, this has nothing to do with a critically important presidential election (as if it even needs to be said) so if it is intended as a campaign tactic, then it is a pathetic one.

  • StockBoySF

    We’ve already been distracted by this rumor (which may prove to be true) and McCain is benefiting from this buzz…

    Country first? Hardly and I think the American people will see through this ploy.

  • StockBoySF

    A couple more thoughts…. mostly just snark…. but how else does one approach rumors about candidates using kids (and other people’s kids, Levi, in this case) for their own political benefit? :)

    If there was ever a time for a good use for the 527s, this would be it… those groups could point out (rightfully) that McCain is playing politics with Palin’s children and using the marriage as a distraction.

    Also, didn’t Jenna Bush have a low-key wedding in Crawford because there was concern that Americans did not want to see a high profile wedding in a time of war? Well, we have a war and an economic crisis so… at least Bush had the common decency not to have a big Rose Garden wedding….

    I’m sure that McCain is happy that both he and Palin have large families…. When Russia or Iran (or some other crisis) starts saber-rattling, McCain can trot our one of the kids to have a wedding as a distraction. I’m sure Russia will be more than happy to wait for one of the children to be married before invading Ukraine (or wherever)…

    If McCain is so gung-ho on suspending his campaign (for the bailout) or ending the race, then why doens’t he just come out and end his campaign? :)

  • DLS

    It would be cheap exploitation. Almost as cheap as a 100% McCain Non-Campaign as Stockster has already thought about. Now _that_ would be _cheap_. And what a great future technique to get “free” money if we taxpayers were so silly as to publicly fund all campaigns!

    Just the same, be prepared if need be to hear that word: “F A M I L Y” (as in values!).

    It would be funny (ha, ha, ha) if the wedding and broadcast of it were paid for and sponsored by a few “rescued” financial institutions. Ha, ha, ha.

    * * *

    Incidentally, McCain can beat Obama on issues (beginning obviously with foreign policy). Except — health care. Does McCain realize what he’s doing, imposing an unfunded (I suspect) mandate on the states by requiring them to take out-of-state insurance subscribers (who will flood the states with the best plans for the money). Does McCain realize that the high-risk pools often refuse admission to people now, within the states, already, and that even if they admit people, they typically exclude pre-existing condition coverage for periods such as a year? (That is the case for one person’s situation as described this morning on NPR.) Then, of course, McCain is seeking to do something a few conservatives want and a few liberals want, too (in lieu of publicly-provided or -financed health care, both being effectively the same): He wants to subject the value of employee health benefits to income taxes. Health care is one thing Obama has neglected this year, not only with the details of his plan (including how to pay for it, especially now that money will be scarce after the big bailout of the financial industry) but with the details of McCain’s plan that he (Obama) could attack.

    The New England Journal of Medicine, which is notoriously liberal, has been doing a better job of criticizing McCain than Obama has.

    Such issues are more important than any cheap publicity stunt with the marriage. Health care has receded into the background because the economy is now #1, but this subject should not be neglected. Doesn’t Obama want to win?

  • roro80

    This whole wedding thing is eerily similar to one scene in that online book Mick LaSalle wrote — The Event, I think — that was featured here about a year ago. Does anyone else remember that? The main character, a female lefty blogger, was about to marry her fiancee, when her sister, one of the president’s (modeled after Bush) high-up staff, gave the bride the “present” of having the president perform the ceremony, as he was the ordained leader of the recently-set-up National Church. The bride, of course, is horrified, totally weirded out that she’s there being married by a president she hates (and who, in the context of this book, is actually the anti-Christ), and there’s really no way to gracefully get out of the situation. Can’t you imagine poor Bristol feeling the same way — whether she wants to or not (there’s really know way for us to know, is there?) the kid is going to be married in the presence of all the cameras, with the entire country looking on at her shotgun wedding.

  • RememberNovember

    What’s the difference between a circus and what McCain call’s his wife ( allegedly)

    Well the circus has cunning stunts.

  • roro80

    RememberNov — Allegedly? Didn’t the whole world see that clip?

  • StockBoySF

    DLS: “It would be funny (ha, ha, ha) if the wedding and broadcast of it were paid for and sponsored by a few “rescued” financial institutions. Ha, ha, ha.”

    ROFL! Thanks!

  • StockBoySF

    Well, a few months ago McCain did want to enter his wife into that nudie contest in North Dakota or where ever it was….