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A bigger storm

Good news today for the Gulf Coast, that apparently Hurricane Gustav seems to be doing a good deal less damage than it might have – its strength and course happen to hit in such a way that for all the damage it will do, it could have done a lot more.

In presidential politics this Labor Day weekend, the Sarah Palin storm seems to be playing out in just the opposite way.

The Alaska governor, Republican vice presidential selection and ex-Idahoan (the latter our hook for getting into this at all here) is in a world of political trouble so severe that successfully turning it back – at least in the context of this presidential campaign – looks now to be all but impossible.

That’s not because of any one thing. The Troopergate issue isn’t necessarily fatal. Neither is the Bridge to Nowhere or earmarks discussion. Or the questions about experience (and foreign relation – see Alaska’s proximity to Russia). Or the involvement with the Alaskan Independence Party, or support of Pat Buchanan. Or, certainly, the various pregnancy discussions (daughter’s baby, the flight from Dallas, etc.), some or all of which shouldn’t be part of a political discussion at all. Individually, these issues aren’t fatal; they should be survivable.

It’s that, all of a sudden, there’s such a massive swarm of all these things. Look at this diary on Daily Kos, not for the specifics (which vary widely as matters of legitimate concern) but for their sheer number – within three days, 100 more “issues” with Palin, subjects and ideas that could cause her and her running mate (John McCain, remember?) potential damage. There are now so many Palin stories with stingers zipping through the air – can you remember a comparable case where so many emerged so fast? – that it is becoming impossible for the McCain campaign to swat them all. And the impression of wrongdoing, deceit and even strangeness (whatever the merits) is likely to take hold before long.

What is developing, what seems likely to emerge, is a sense that something is seriously wrong, that so much smoke sure means some fire somewhere, even if some of these criticisms don’t pan out, as at least some surely won’t.

That will be very difficult for Sarah Palin to survive, in the context of this presidential contest. How she and McCain respond to that . . . isn’t easily predictable. Any more than her original choice was.

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