A Perfectly Executed Media Blackout

As I look back on last Friday’s announcement by John McCain of his running mate, I’m still shaking my head about how effective the timing of it turned out to be, all but snuffing out the media momentum that Democrats hoped to gain.

When I went to bed after midnight, the lead story was rightly the speech that Barack Obama had given at Mile High Stadium, and the fantastic production that went along with it.

John McCain’s running mate was just hours away, but there still weren’t any specifics.

Then around 8am Denver time, the leaks began to intensify.  First Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota was out.  Then Mitt Romney was out.  Then no one had any idea of what was next.

Obama’s speech suddenly was getting less attention as the media tried to figure out who McCain was going to unveil at lunch time in Dayton, Ohio.

Team McCain seemed to play it perfectly, as once the name of Sarah Palin was dropped on us like a bomb from left field, the biggest storyline was to find out who the heck she was.

The coverage continued throughout Friday and into the weekend, and really would have accelerated even more with the beginning of the GOP convention here in St. Paul, if not for Hurricane Gustav.

McCain certainly won that media cycle, even with questions about why he chose Palin.

While you are watching this unfold at home, pay close attention in coming days to the debate over Palin – the debate to “define” her.  Democrats and Republicans seem to have exchanged rhetoric about the word experience, and what it means to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin.

Take some time to hit more liberal and more conservative blogs to see how hard both sides are fighting to win this “definition” battle.  It is a very important fight, because if either side can get the upper hand, there is a distinct advantage awaiting them.

Both sides are bitterly battling over polling data that demonstrates their belief that Palin will either be accepted or rejected by the voters.  Also note the determined effort of Democrats to brush off any assertion that Palin can cut into disaffected Hillary Clinton voters.

Oddly enough, the focus on Hurricane Gustav may actually help the Republicans, because there will be no intense focus on Palin over the next few days.

“I noticed she wasn’t on any of the Sunday talk shows,” my politically astute father said to me on his 75th birthday, adding that he was sure the GOP was protecting her from any bad fallout that might occur.

If there were no Gustav, we would be chasing Palin all over the place, desperately trying to get any angle that might shed light on her – and of course watching closely to see if she was going to step in a verbal pothole at some point.

Because of the truncated nature of this convention, she may even be able to make a shorter speech to the delegates – if she makes a speech at all – and if she comes to St. Paul at all.

All I can tell you so far, is that Republican delegates are ecstatic about her choice.

Democrats are also pleased with it for a different reason.  They think it is a sign of a desperate John McCain.

Desperate or not, McCain won the News Cycle on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We’ll see how the rest of the week, weighted down by Gustav plays as well.