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Commentary: Palin is brilliant, but risky, VP choice

  • Story Highlights
  • Ed Rollins: Sarah "Barracuda" Palin is a strong choice by McCain
  • Her background and ability to attract women voters are pluses, he says
  • Rollins: Obama is a tough and impressive opponent for the GOP
  • After the St. Paul convention, we'll have 60-plus days to campaign, Rollins says
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By Ed Rollins
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Ed Rollins, who served as political director for President Reagan, is a Republican strategist who was national chairman of Mike Huckabee's campaign. For a rival view of the Palin pick, read here.

Ed Rollins says Sarah Palin has a compelling story and has immense potential to attract women voters

NEW YORK (CNN) -- John McCain's brilliant but risky "Hail Mary pass" choice for vice president, Alaska Gov. Sarah "Barracuda" Palin, has the political world saying first: Who? And then: Why?

The "who" is a young, articulate, smart, tough, pro-life woman who is the governor of our northernmost state. She is conservative and a mother of five, including a son in the Army who is set to be deployed to Iraq on September 11. Her youngest child has Down syndrome.

The "Barracuda" nickname came from her aggressive basketball play on the state championship basketball team. She is a hunter, pilot and lifetime member of the NRA.

She is blunt, outspoken and charming. And don't assume she can't stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden. She is a great debater. And she was runner-up for the Miss Alaska title, won Miss Congeniality in that contest and plays the flute.

She also has a compelling story and is a most interesting choice. She will be known by all in 24 to 48 hours in this instant media world, and I am betting she will be well-liked.

The "why" is she is a governor and outside the Beltway. Conservatives love her, and she shares John McCain's value system. She is also known for taking on the establishment and ethics is her forte.

She defeated the longtime senator and Republican governor in a primary and then went on and defeated the former Democratic governor.

I don't believe people vote for vice president but only for president. That said, I think she is every bit as good a choice as Biden. Alaska has three electoral votes, and so does Delaware, so that part ends up being a wash.

I think the potential for her to attract women voters is immense. And I am betting, win or lose or draw, she is a future star of a party in desperate need of young people and women role models. iReport.com: Ouch McCain! That hurt

And by the end of this campaign, she too will be a celebrity, and her life will never be the same again. I hope that's all for the good.

Speaking of celebrities, Barack Obama proved why he is one at Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos, last night before 85,000 crying, cheering adoring fans. And what's wrong with that? He is a real talent, and he excites and inspires his supporters.

Those of us who are not supporters need to step back and quit watching in awe and prepare for battle. Obama's natural and developed speaking style is unchallengeable.

I've been in politics for 40 years. I had the privilege of serving Ronald Reagan as his White House political director and campaign manager, and during those years, I heard him give hundreds of speeches.

And no one was ever better. His words enlightened, gave comfort, inspired and made Americans feel good about themselves again. He also had a core of beliefs developed over a long period of time that led to a very effective agenda.

The Democrats now have their own version of an RR orator. And, like Reagan, Obama's speeches are his own words. Whether he will be elected president or will have the accomplishments RR did, only time will tell. But his gifts of speech and ability to inspire his supporters are impressive and should not be underestimated.

Saying all that, and putting the emotion of "mile-high Denver" euphoria aside, Ronald Reagan became a great president because of his many other skills. He knew where he wanted to take our country and had the courage to stick to his beliefs. iReport.com: 'Best governor we've had'

We still don't know what Obama and the Democrats want, other than George Bush back in Crawford Texas, and their party controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

We now know the tickets: Obama-Biden, McCain-Palin.

Biden is an asset as a foreign policy adviser. Palin will be an asset on domestic and energy issues. All have compelling stories. But ultimately, this race is about McCain's experience and world view and Obama's ability to excite his base.

We have one more exciting convention (now with a new player in Gov. Palin) and then 60-plus days to go at full speed. The winner gets the toughest job in the world, with the most difficult agenda we as a nation have faced in decades.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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