In a word, style. Our election campaigns have long been more about style than substance, and this is just the latest example. Of course, it's not the kind of style that is featured in the fashion section of the New York Times, and that is why Senator Obama's campaign is having so much trouble -- because that is the only kind of style they know, or at least the only one they think that matters.
Sarah Palin has a style that is recognizable throughout flyover country and even on the coasts outside the cocooned enclaves of the wealthy and powerful. She is confident, measured, and has a proper respect for others. There isn't a whiff of the elitism that positively radiates in the personas of Senators Obama and Biden. She has the practical wisdom and patient understanding of someone who actually deals with life in 21st century America the same way that 90% of America does. This is not the least bit true for any of the privileged members of the Senate, including Senators Obama, Biden and McCain.
The complete inability of the Obama camp to recognize and relate to Sarah Palin's style is why their attacks to date have seemed so rude, crude, and even lewd. Their biting wit (in their eyes, not mine) and sophisticated put downs aren't resonating outside the echo chamber. Heaven help Senator Obama if they suddenly decide he needs to be more folksy and start to connect with "average" people in jeans, flannel shirts and workboots. Sometimes I think they are just detached and isolated enough to actually say something like that out loud.
Frankly, at this point I'm not sure what the Democrats can do to counter her. All the little PC admonitions and identity politics they've used in the past are coming back to bite them in the ass now. Good. Paybacks are a bitch.
FWIW, I have no illusions that Sarah Palin is anything but a politician. What I will note is that her political education and environment is notably different than that of the other candidates on each ticket. If I had to choose between a product of Washington in long time Senators Biden and McCain, a product of the Chicago machine in Senator Obama, or a product of local and state government in Alaska, well, that's an easy choice for me. Which of those do you think Thomas Jefferson would have favored?