ST. PAUL, Minn. And you thought the Clinton-Obama convention was a soap opera.
Enter stage (far) right: The Sarah Palin Chronicles.
John McCain's VP choice was already the fastest-breaking curveball American politics had seen in a generation before this Reuters report:
"The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said on Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child."
"Faked" pregnancies. Teen sex. Government cover-ups. It's like a bad episode of "Desperate Housewives," except Gov. Palin is much hotter than Marcia Cross.
And she's been the nominee for less than a week.
For normal people who don't surf the fever swamps of the DailyKos and other liberal Web sites, the reference to faking a pregnancy has to do with a story invented by some lefty blogger that Trig Palin Sarah's newborn son who has Down syndrome is actually the illegitimate son of the governor's oldest daughter.
This idiotically offensive slur was demonstrably false - it took me less than 60 seconds to find a photo of a painfully-pregnant Gov. Palin from earlier this year but pro-Obama activists like Andrew Sullivan and even some mainstream media outlets jumped on it.
And now, with the news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, the 2008 presidential campaign officially has more plot twists than an episode of "Lost." It also has two legitimate stars: Barack Obama, descended from the heavens to heal our souls and deliver our nation; and Sarah Palin, who wandered in from the Alaska wilderness with a rifle under one arm and a baby in the other.
The Republicans figured out a strategy to deal with Oba-Messiah: the power of positive mockery. It worked so well that, not only did Obama enter the Democratic National Convention tied with McCain but, astonishingly, he ended the week the same way. The only bump this convention season is the "baby bump."
Now the Republican National Convention begins (assuming Gustav doesn't cancel the whole thing), juiced up on Palin Power and Democrats have yet to work out their response to this new Republican star.
Does her daughter's pregnancy provide the opening Democrats need? It's too early to say, but my guess is no. In fact, if anything, this storyline is likely to help the McCain/Palin ticket.
First, it will drive the ratings for Palin's speech tomorrow night through the roof. I've been predicting that the tune-in for her speech would be second only to Obama's "Night at the Parthenon" show. If the McCain campaign leaks word that Palin's going to address her daughter's pregnancy, she may surpass him.
Second, this story will appeal to the women voters Palin was always put on the ticket to target not the hard-core Hillary Lefties, but the swing, suburban moms. Palin is never going to be popular with New York Times feminists. Palin's appeal is with working women who've had encounters with low-level sexism but, instead of whining about it, got back to work making happy, successful lives.
Her daughter's pregnancy highlights another part of Palin's appeal. Her normalcy. Here's a woman who has run a business, raised a family, who is sending a son off to Iraq, who has another son with a disability, and now has to help her teenage daughter face motherhood. These are experiences that millions of American moms have shared, can relate to and understand.
Sarah Palin is as accessible as Obama is exotic. Her life story is simultaneously exciting and mundane. All the way from Alaska, she comes to America as The Girl Next Door.