And now the eyeballs of the nation turn to this quintessentially middle American or possibly southern Canadian city, where in the next few days, weather permitting, the Republicans will answer the Democratic party's call for change by sounding, loud and clear, their own bold campaign theme for 2008: ''What, YOU Never Made a Mistake?''
The big ''buzz'' here is of course John McCain's choice for running mate: Sarah Palin, who has been governor of Alaska for two years, before which she was mayor of the Alaskan city of Wasilla, which has the same total number of households as John McCain.
No, sorry, that was a cheap shot, and I promise I will not make any more McCain house jokes until I think of another one. But the fact is that Wasilla is a fairly small town, to judge by its official website (www.cityofwasilla.com), which, over the weekend, under ''Wasilla News,'' listed the Palin story below one headlined (I am not making this up) ''Wasilla Farmers Market Expanded.''
The Democrats pounced immediately on the choice of Palin, charging that she is unqualified, especially compared to the ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who have a total of nearly 40 years of experience in the U.S. Senate, or, if you subtract Biden, nearly four years of experience.
But the McCain camp is defending Palin's résumé, which, aside from being a governor and a mayor, includes being a mom, playing basketball, hunting moose and being runner-up for Miss Alaska 1984. There was some grumbling among Republican insiders that McCain would have been better off choosing somebody with a thicker résumé, such as Mitt Romney, who actually won Miss Alaska 1984.
But the choice has been made, so the question now is: Does Palin really have what it takes to carry out the duties of vice president of the United States? Specifically, would she go moose-hunting with lawyers? Because if so, let's vote her in NOW.
The Palin choice is only one of the storylines that will be developing here over the next few days. Another one will be the Republicans' effort to contrast the tone and style of their convention with that of the Democrats, particularly Barack Obama's now-legendary acceptance speech, which he read from stone tablets, in which he promised the American public that if elected he would give them peace, jobs, healthcare, national security, energy independence, good schools, a clean environment, reduced government waste, lower taxes, the head of Osama bin Laden, giant underwater cities, time travel, and a magic flying zebra named ''Sparkle'' for every American pre-schooler regardless of income level.
Obama's speech was well received, but some critics felt that the stadium staging was a bit ''over the top,'' especially the chariot race. In contrast, the Republicans plan to use a simple, spare podium made from an appliance carton, with no ''show-biz'' gimmicks other than a computerized electronic display that will enable the convention delegates to keep track, at all times, of the current, up-to-the-minute number of John McCain's houses.
The one ''wild card'' element in the convention is Hurricane Gustav. The storm is expected to slam into the Gulf Coast on Monday, which has forced the Republicans to cut back to avoid an unfortunate public relations scenario on the day when their originally scheduled Daily Convention Theme was going to be ''We're Rich And You're Not.''
Yes, it's going to be a busy week, and I will be reporting to you daily, keeping one eyeball on the convention, and another eyeball on Gustav.
And a third eyeball out for moose.
©2008 Dave Barry
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