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Palin opens Limbaugh's eyes to the real McCain

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION : TOP OF THE TICKET
/ DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

September 05, 2008|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

We knew that Wednesday night's boffo speech to the Republican National Convention by newly minted vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a huge hit inside the house. But perhaps no one among the GOP faithful swooned more than Rush Limbaugh.

El Rushbo, the self-appointed voice of broadcast conservatism to his many millions of faithful listeners, had been less than enthusiastic about the candidacy of Sen. John McCain. But he has been an enthusiastic booster of Palin, and Sept. 4, 2008, is a day that will go down in the annals of political history as one of the all-time greatest show biz flip-flops: Rush has fallen in line with John McCain.

As noted by The Page's Mark Halperin, Limbaugh said this in his broadcast Thursday:

"I did not want that to end last night. . . . I didn't want the night to end. I didn't want Rudy to stop. What a night! Folks, we have a future beyond November here. Regardless what happens. . . . The convention has been unified on the basis of conservatism. Properly executed, beautifully articulated.

"Believe me, Barack Obama has a lot to fear today and he knows it. . . . The drive-bys are in panic, the Democrat Party is in panic, the liberal left is in panic. . . . They do not know who hit them, they do not know how to respond to this.

"This lady has turned it all around. . . . From now on, on this program John McCain will be known as John McBrilliant."

No, really! Rush said that.

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Embracing gays, Republican-style

Gay Republican. We've known some Democrats to deride the term as an oxymoron. But for years now, openly gay Republicans not only have stayed the course in the party but have sought to raise their profile through the Log Cabin organization. And Thursday, that group reveled in a visit from John McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt.

Schmidt spoke at a luncheon in Minneapolis hosted by Log Cabin and, according to a release quickly sent out by Scott Tucker, its communications director, he said, "I admire your organization."

Other quotes from Schmidt, as related by Tucker: "Keep fighting for what you believe because the day is going to come," and, "We are the party of freedom. We will keep fighting as a party to reach it in full."

Schmidt's interest in the group's efforts may be more than academic; a recent Washington Post profile of him noted that his lone sibling is a lesbian.

Tucker said in his release that the luncheon was held to honor the openly gay delegates at the Republican National Convention in neighboring St. Paul.

We tracked him down by phone to ask how many that would be among the confab's total of 2,380. Tucker told us that although the party "doesn't keep those demographics," he estimated the number at about two dozen.

Log Cabin did not actually get around to endorsing McCain until Tuesday, but in its statement of support, the group lavished praise on the Arizona senator for "bucking his own party's leadership and the president -- twice voting against" the push for a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

McCain, who believes the gay marriage issue should be left up to each state, "gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment 'antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans,' " the Log Cabin statement said.

It also applauded McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, even though she is a strong social conservative enthusiastically embraced by others of that stripe. Tucker told us, "When it comes to gay issues, she's largely undefined."

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'Over'? No way, Noonan explains

Republican speechwriter-turned-columnist Peggy Noonan was a center of attention Wednesday when, in a casual conversation inadvertently recorded after she had wrapped up an appearance on MSNBC, she seemed to say that, in her view, John McCain had no chance of winning the presidency.

"It's over," Noonan can be heard saying on the clip as she, NBC political director Chuck Todd and Mike Murphy (another onetime GOP political operative) discuss the ramifications of McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Noonan has since clarified the context of her comment, and it's not as has been interpreted, she says.

She doesn't believe McCain can't win. Indeed, in a message she sent out after the conversation on the MSNBC set made it onto YouTube, she noted that "at an on-the-record press symposium on the campaign on Monday, when all of those on the panel were pressed to predict who would win, I said that I didn't know, but that we just might find, this is a country for old men. That is, McCain may well win. I do not think the campaign is over, I do not think this is settled."

Her "it's over" comment, she said, referred to the assumption among some GOP leaders that reactions within the Republican base -- such as the enthusiastic embrace of Palin -- reflect the attitudes of most Americans. It is those days, Noonan says, that are "over."

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Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/ topoftheticket.

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