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PICKING PALIN….My morning LA Times tells me something I didn’t know before. Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign manager responsible for Paris and Britney, the anti-press jihad, the slurs against Obama’s patriotism, and all the rest of the McCain campaign’s kitchen sink, was also the brains behind McCain’s biggest bet-the-ranch stunt of all:

The effort peaked with the choice of Palin as McCain’s running mate. Convinced that McCain needed a dramatic gesture to make the race competitive, Schmidt pressed McCain to pluck the Alaska governor from obscurity.

Other than the candidates, no one in the operation has more riding on that decision than Schmidt. And no one has worked harder to turn the decision into a success.

He defended Palin against what he called sexist attacks, and traveled to Alaska to brief her before her first TV interviews. For three days, he was ensconced at McCain’s spread in Sedona, Ariz., helping Palin prepare for her performance on the biggest night of her career: the debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

In the world of high-octane political campaigns, Schmidt used to have a reputation for both brains and brawn. After this November, I have a feeling brawn is all his reputation will be left with.

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