If only Sarah Palin were just some famous guy's wife.
Then, as with Hillary Clinton, the women's groups and activists could love and pet her like a victim.
But the Governor of Alaska has torn up the script. Confounded the simpering stereotype.
Here is a caribou-hunting, moose-gutting, corruption-busting, oil-drilling, anti-abortion, beauty-pageant queen whose husband's greatest claim to fame is to win the world's most famous race for snow machines.
Her power is entirely her own. And it's the equal of any man's.
No wonder she's unleashed the fury of the castrated Left, which in fear has attacked her and her 17-year-old daughter with the vilest - and most misanthropic - smear campaign you'll have ever seen in politics.
And no wonder, too, that this mother of five has set alight a presidential race that seemed all but a done deal for Barack Obama.
Only last Thursday Obama seemed to have sealed victory in the November 4 election to succeed George W Bush.
Already ahead in the polls, and with the buzz of a Messiah, he'd assembled the biggest-ever crowd - 86,000 - for a Democrat convention.
He'd also got the biggest-ever television audience for a convention - 38 million - to watch him speak.
And he gave them a speech that commentators agreed was one to match the best of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Men trembled and women swooned. "I cried my eyelashes off," blubbered TV queen Oprah Winfrey. If words, not deeds, were the only measure of a politician, Obama had won already.
Yet 12 hours later it was all blown away. What happened? Republican candidate John McCain had simply announced his choice of running mate.
Normally a vice-presidential candidate makes little difference to a campaign. If George Bush Sr could win with a potato called Dan Quayle, and Bill Clinton with a fencepost called
Al Gore, you'd figure the sidekick was about as crucial to victory as a fork to a funeral.
But McCain's pick of the all-but-unknown Sarah Palin, just 44, changed everything. With that one pick, McCain, himself a maverick, recast the election into a battle between heartland America and the urban elite.
He matched Obama's biography of hope with Palin's apple-pie own. He added youth to a ticket weighed down by his 72 years. He underlined Obama's inexperience and reframed the brilliant orator as not the voice of change but of the Washington insider.
What's more, McCain baited a trap to catch out Obama as a man with a woman problem - the man who'd refused to appoint his defeated rival, Hillary Clinton, as his own running mate, preferring Senate blow-hard Joe Biden. Snap! Prey caught.
The Obama camp's first instinct was to patronise Palin as just a pretty face, mocking her as the former mayor of Wasilla, a mere suburb of Anchorage, cynically picked by McCain merely to woo disillusioned Clinton fans.
Jeered Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency."
It's a line picked up by most media commentators, who assumed a woman couldn't be politically experienced, even one who'd actually been governor of a US state for two years, giving her more executive experience than either Obama and Biden, neither of whom have run anything but their mouths.
Within hours Obama, for one, knew he'd made a mistake in belittling not just a woman but - even deadlier - a voice of small-town America.
He'd underestimated the former Miss Wasilla 1984 in a way he'd never have underestimated a man.
So he emerged within hours to excuse his campaign's first response as a case of tripping over "hair triggers", and say what he really meant was that Palin "seems like a compelling person" with "obviously a terrific story, a personal story", and "she will help make the case for the Republicans".
Obama in fact knows Palin offers voters a life story at least as compelling as his own - and one that slots even neater into the great American dream.
After all, she is the wife of a half-Inuit professional fisherman and mother of five who became a mayor and then head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a job she quit after complaining that one of her fellow commissioners, the state's Republican chairman, was a crook. She was right and he was fined.
She then charged the state's attorney-general, another fellow Republican, with a breach of ethics. Again she was right and he was fired.
Got the picture? Tough lady, with a record of tackling the good ol' boys of even her own party. No doubt they thought she was just a pretty face, too, until she buried them.
Her reputation as a principled reformer has grown since she took office. She sold off the former governor's private plane on eBay, took on Big Oil over a contract to build a gas pipeline, slashed waste and now has approval ratings in the 80s.
Obama talks change, but outsider Palin actually represents it. And she represents it in the iconic Mrs Smith Goes to Washington way that fits so well with McCain's own record.
It's true she badly lacks experience, and is about to sit the exam of her life. Everything depends on her being the quick study she's said to be.
Should she stumble, McCain will be discredited as the gambler who picked a novice just to win an election, not help run a nation - although Palin's confident acceptance speech on Friday already showed she's no Dan Quayle, blinking nervously.
And there's one other advantage Palin has. Her critics, largely in the media, still underestimate her and, once again, underestimate her as a woman. How she's exposed the inner chauvinist of many of the Left, accustomed to thinking of female politicians as symbols, not individuals.
Not experienced, they scoff.
But what experience has Obama had? Just two years older, his only job outside politics was as a community organiser, and since then he's been a state senator and - for just four years - a US senator, making speeches and planning his next campaign.
If Governor Palin isn't experienced enough to be vice-president, is Obama qualified for the biggest job of all? Or are there different rules for men?
More patronising: She's just a token woman, cry the critics, who assume that female politicians succeed best by appealing to female voters, when the very reverse tends to be true.
But Palin - a huntin', fishin', fundamentalist Christian pro-lifer - isn't at all a magnet for feminist votes. She's more a man's woman whose strongest support - like that of Margaret Thatcher and even Pauline Hanson - will come from blue-collar white males and small-town conservatives.
Sneering attacks won't enrage women so much as confirm for many poorer white voters that Obama, the Harvard lawyer backed by the urban elites, is in fact sneering at them.
And if such voters need confirmation of Palin's status as the outsider tackling the Big City oinkers, they've had it in the bizarre attack launched against her this week.
Some of America's biggest Left-wing bloggers, especially the Obama-supported Daily Kos, accused her of having pretended to be the mother of her fifth child, son Trig, born in April with Down syndrome after she refused to abort him.
The real mother, they hooted, was her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. The evidence? Simply that Palin in some photographs taken before the birth did not look pregnant, but Bristol did.
Would any man have been attacked so personally, so viciously, on evidence so pathetic that I could disprove it on my own blog after just 30 minutes of searching the internet for pictures? This was almost literally a witch-hunt.
Yet so frenzied was the attack that Palin on Monday was forced to prove her four-month-old baby was indeed her own, issuing a statement saying Bristol was herself five months' pregnant, and planned to marry the father. Leave my girl alone.
She showed herself as just a mother, doing her loving best, but also as a politician with more obvious principle than her sniggering critics.
She emerged strong, but human. Not a symbol, but very real. In fact, McCain may have picked the one politician who could help win him the election.
Should she succeed, watch out. This clearly isn't a woman happy to simply help another man be president.