Until the Republican convention I was pretty confident that Obama would be the next president. Sarah Palin has changed that prediction, somewhat. I still think Obama’s more likely to win than lose, but she has energized McCain’s campaign and for the moment they control the debate. When McCain’s campaign manager said that the campaign was going to be decided based on character rather than issues (in defiance of Obama’s renewal of the 1992 “economy stupid” meme), he probably knew that the announcement of Palin as VP candidate would eclipse Obama’s historic speech, erasing the “I have a Dream” anniversary moment, and send us off into marathon circus about pregnant teenagers and lipstick on pigs.

The left blogosphere reacted with panic, and quickly dug up all the dirt they could find in order to force the MSM to diminish some of her luster. Some of it was pure crap, such as rumors that her newest child was actually her daughter’s, or that she had fired a librarian in order to ban books while she was mayor. Some of the dirt is valid. She did lie about her history of opposition to earmarks, and in fact she accepted the money for the “bridge to nowhere” and spent it on other projects. And it appears that she abused executive power to pursue a vendetta against her ex-brother-in-law. But none of her supporters really cares that she lied to pad her resume. After all “they all do it.” And many voters won’t begrudge her using her position to stick up for her sister. They relate to that. The heroes in all the movies they watch bend the rules, which get in the way of justice. It only reinforces her “maverick” status.

She’s good news for conservatives, and great news for McCain. She will hold her own against Biden in the debate and they’re keeping a tight leash on her with regard to the media. There won’t be any serious gaffes. She’s the perfect window dressing.

Of course, nothing comes without a price, and there is one demographic which is clearly not impressed with her, not even all of the conservatives therein. The Palin selection has probably ended any hope for a McCain bid for a significant chunk of the Jewish vote. Now, we’re only talking about 2 percent of the vote, maybe a little higher since Jews tend to turn out in high percentages. But in the US elections are about electoral college votes, and in states which are close these demographic shifts can make a huge difference. Florida has been a “battleground state,” but most of the pundits have been giving McCain the advantage due to recent election results, the galvanized Cuban vote, and the controversy during the primaries. But the polls have been very close of late, and Obama’s people are sensing blood. Obama is set to have a huge event in which Bill Clinton is going to join him at the end of the month (I’ll try to fill this post in with links later). Palin is rocking the south, but she may actually be creating a vulnerability in Florida.

Why aren’t Jewish voters impressed with her? No, it’s not the Jews-for-Jesus controversy in which she sat passively in her church while a guest speaker for Jews for Jesus proclaimed that Israel had brought terrorism onto itself as punishment from God for not taking Jesus into their lives. She later said she disagreed, and most Jewish voters would probably give her the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t help her with Jews, but it’s not the issue per se. Her support of Pat Buchanan’s presidential bids probably don’t help either. But it’s also not the issue.

The problem is her greatest strength, which is her ability to reinvigorate the culture war. All of the faith talk, the guns, the concept of a “normal American” leave many Jews cold. Nothing like swipes at the “liberal elite,” or at New York City, San Francisco, etc. to remind them that there is a real America and the other. No matter how many praises Christian fundamentalists sing of Israel and the so-called “Judeo-Christian roots” of western civilization, the bottom line is that historically speaking anti-intellectualism, anti-Hollywood, and what is perceived as the innate virtue of the small town – all of it overlaps with anti-semitism. It’s code. The contrast of the “rugged individualist” with the image of the fem effete Jewish intellectual, and all that represents.

Bear in mind, this is not to say that Sarah Palin is anti-semitic. There’s no reason to belief she is particularly anti-semitic. She apparently gets along fine with the community leaders of the 5000 or so Jews who live in Alaska. It’s the symbolism. Symbolism is everything in Jewish politics. They are quite sensitive to it. The veneer of decency has slipped off on occassion, particularly when controversial moves about Jesus Christ are released. Most recent memory is Mel Gibson’s comments following his film, but a few years before that there were Christian voices screaming about the “Jewish money” backing The Last Temptation of Christ, which was perceived by the braindead as an attack on the Christian faith.

Some Jewish voices have already been heard:

“For a party which claims it is trying to reach out to the Jewish community, McCain’s pick is particularly strange,” NJDC director Ira Forman said in a statement. “On a broad range of issues, most strikingly on the issue of women’s reproductive freedom, she is totally out of step with Jewish public opinion. The gulf between Palin’s public policy positions and the American Jewish community is best illustrated by the fact that the Christian Coalition of America was one of the strongest advocates of her selection.”

Justified or not, some of the internal polling is indicating that Jewish voters are not on the bandwagon, and Obama is going to hit hard where it will make a difference. His campaign has gone dark in Georgia, and I suspect he’s going to pull out of the plains states as well. But he’s moving more people into Florida, where about four percent of the voters are Jewish. The McCain campaign meanwhile, had her meet with AIPAC, accompanied by Joe Lieberman, and has had her meet with other Jewish conservative leaders. They’re obviously concerned about losing the inroads the GOP has made into the demographic in recent years.

McCain will receive Jewish votes. He’ll trot out some spokespeople, and play up Israel in foreign policy discourse (which he’s avoiding like the plague these days). Jewish conservatives will vote the issues as they see them. But some of those votes will be cast uneasily.