The Note: Mom vs. Messiah

Is he getting the message? "A new character is making a debut at Senator Barack Obama's campaign rallies: His name is John McCain," Jeff Zeleny writes in The New York Times. "With just 57 days remaining in this long presidential race, Mr. Obama is going after Mr. McCain more aggressively than at any other point in the campaign, with a professorial tone giving way to one of prosecution. These days, he sounds more like those sharp-tongued commercials seen on television."

"It isn't just Democratic officials who are fixated on Palin. Media outlets on the left -- from Talking Points Memo to Huffington Post -- are loaded with hard-hitting stories about Palin. McCain often seems like he's playing second fiddle," Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write.

On the woman thing: "The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate jolted to life conservatives, especially women, who were lukewarm to the Arizona senator at the top of the GOP ticket," David Jackson writes for USA Today. "In interviews with about two dozen women attending a rally here and by phone, female voters said they were excited by Palin because of her opposition to abortion rights and for her ability to juggle a career with five children."

Will this really sort itself out? "Obama advisers said that once women across the board begin considering Palin's stands on social issues such as human embryonic stem cell research and legalized abortion -- she opposes both -- their interest will fade," Anne Kornblut reports in The Washington Post.

Says Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.: "What does she believe? I assume she thinks and agrees with the same policies that George Bush and John McCain think. . . . And that's obviously a backward step for women."

But a cliché -- plus some calculated overreaction -- reminds Obama of what he's up against: "You know, you can put lipstick on a pig -- but it's still a pig," Obama said on the stump Tuesday, pausing only briefly after delivering a line politicians (including McCain) have used approximately forever.

Neither McCain nor Obama wear lipstick -- but does anyone really honestly think Obama was referring to Palin here?

"The road to the White House turned into a mud pit Tuesday," the New York Daily News' Michael Saul writes. "The Obama camp maintained it was no personal insult at Palin -- just the use of a common expression to suggest the McCain-Palin ticket was trying to dress up bad policy. They circulated quotes in which McCain used the 'lipstick on a pig' line to attack a Hillary Clinton health care plan."

"BOAR WAR!" declares the New York Post. "HOLY SOW! BAM'S LIPSTICK BUNGLE."

"Interestingly, the [McCain] Truth Squad call was full of half-truths and statements that weren't true at all," ABC's Jake Tapper writes. "Speaking on behalf of the McCain campaign, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift tonight flatly stated that Obama had called Palin a pig."

"The whole argument is an indication of the changing dynamic in this race," ABC's Kate Snow reported on "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "It's now Obama vs. Palin. The governor is drawing crowds McCain could only dream about a few months ago."

(Snow notes that Palin often rails against "the good old boys" -- and hasn't had much new to say on anything in some time.)

The lipstick line has already been turned into a McCain Web video.

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