I don't pretend to know how Bristol Palin's pregnancy "plays." I'd bet it causes a lot of sound and fury but has little effect on the election. Still, some variables to watch: Do evangelicals respect her decision to keep the baby more than they judge Sarah Palin's parenting? Does the freakshow quality here hurt McCain by enhancing the sense of Sarah Palin as an unusual character who maybe shouldn't be ushered right into the West Wing--or does it help make old man McCain's campaign more interesting to average Americans and, especially, the media?
Also: Does the teenaged Jamie Lynn Spears's recent motherhood dull the impact? When I first heard she was pregnant I thought Britney's little sister would be buried under heaps of scorn. But her treatment in the celebrity press, at least--and remember that's how a lot of Americans get their "news"--seemed to me fairly respectful. I wonder if this country is more forgiving of a teen pregnancy than we might suspect.
Finally, there's one other teen mother in the mix here, as Barack Obama's extremely classy statement today reminds us:
I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics, it has no relevance to governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18.