Palin’s rise adds twist to celeb claims

VP candidate becomes overnight sensation

The McCain campaign has spent months painting Barack Obama as a “celebrity” — out of touch with regular Americans and the country’s needs. But in less than a week, John McCain‘s newly anointed running mate went from virtual unknown to overnight, um, celebrity.

After Sarah Palin‘s Sept. 3 debut at the Republican National Convention, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol declared “a star was born last night.” The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan wrote derisively that in the “American Idol”-like speed of her ascent, “reality television has become our politics.”

Us and People played up Palin’s story with celebrity tones.

“Entertainment Tonight” covered her the way it would Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Of her pregnant daughter, Bristol, and her boyfriend, its Website broke the news, “Levi Johnston shows off ‘Bristol’ tattoo on ring finger.”

And “Access Hollywood” was on the scene in St. Paul, where Maria Menounos reported that fellow teen mom Jamie Lynn Spears sent Bristol a baby gift.

“There’s a real irony in that the Republicans have tried to make Obama into a celebrity, and now she is a celebrity,” says crisis communications manager Peter Mirijanian, who has consulted on the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis. “She’s known for her personal story, not her record.”

The Democrats tried to attack Palin’s lack of experience, but who cares about a political record with a media-enticing backstory like hers?

MGM’s Harry Sloan, who has backed McCain from the start of his campaign, says she may even entice some in Hollywood, observing that the reaction he heard from those in the industry after Palin’s speech was “incredible.”

“It is coming from Democrats, Republicans, and independents,” Sloan said from Minneapolis. “There has been no mention of her stance on social issues. They are not mentioning, ‘Oh she’s this and she’s that.’ ”

But does all of Palin’s new celebrity sheen neutralize the McCain campaign’s “Celeb” ad against Obama? Not necessarily.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in his fiery convention speech, told the crowd, “We the people, the citizens of the United States, get to decide our next president, not the leftwing media, not Hollywood celebrities, not anyone else but the people of America.”

Palin herself slammed Obama for his theatrics when she said, ‘When the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot, what exactly is our opponent’s plan?”

But contradictions are beside the point. In the Xcel Center, Palin’s newly found star status provided much-needed electricity for the event, which had until then contrasted mightily with the enthusiasm and star power of the Dems’ gathering. 

Notes Anne Schroeder Mullins, a columnist for the Politico, “For the Republicans, their celebrities are their politicians. For the Democrats, their celebrities are their celebrities.”

Largely overshadowed in all the Palin craze was the speech given by the one true actor in the bunch, former “Law & Order” star and Sen. Fred Thompson. He announced the formation of a new political action committee.

But he’s also got an eye on returning to the realm that made him famous. He’s got an agent at William Morris.

William Triplett contributed to this report.

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