Covering Sarah Palin campaign from the Nome front

"If McCain dropped dead tomorrow," Palin would have well-informed advisors, and she'd be able to make "common sense" decisions.

Former Nome Mayor Leo Rasmussen said Palin's selection was news to cheer, in part because it promotes the great state of Alaska.

But if McCain keels over, is she prepared to lead after just two years in charge of a state with roughly one-third the population of the San Fernando Valley?

"Who is prepared to lead this country?" Rasmussen asked, suggesting that the story of Palin's sudden rise from small-town obscurity was practically Lincolnesque.

OK, so I may not have agreed with everyone I met, but I kind of liked this town, whose motto is "there's no place like Nome." It's a funky, independent-minded burg where it's not uncommon to find people stumbling out of saloons mid-day or talking politics over coffee.

I met lots of no-nonsense people -- some of whom still fish, hunt and work the mines. And most of them, whether they support Palin or not, would have preferred that Palin just be herself, rather than make the silly suggestion that she has foreign affairs insights based on geography, or "command experience" simply because her office oversees the state's National Guard.

At Milano's Pizzeria & Sushi, which is run by Koreans, a table of four was joking about Tina Fey's portrayal of Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

"And Tina Fey said, 'I can see Russia from my house,' " one woman giggled.

Lew Tobin can't see Russia from his house, but he visited its Bering Sea town of Provideniya in the 1980s with a local envoy.

"We broke the ice curtain here first," he boasted.

Lew Tobin. Remember the name. If McCain and Palin prevail, they may look to Nome for a new U.S. ambassador to Russia.

But Tobin, who teaches vocational education to villagers, is no Palin supporter.

"We've had so long a time of people who've gotten by on charisma," he said.

"We want someone who's smart again."

In her Nugget editorial this week, McGuire took on both the Democrats and the Republicans for their packs of lies and twisted truths in the presidential campaign. But she neatly harpooned Palin, arguing that her comments on Alaskan energy production were flat wrong and her line about Russia was embarrassing.

"Someone please whack her over the head with a geography book," McGuire wrote.

She ended the editorial with this observation:

"Palin is woefully under-qualified to be anywhere near the Oval Office. It kind of makes you want to go out and find a moose and put lipstick on it."

steve.lopez@latimes.com
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