Tip O’Neil’s autobiography tells us of a moment in the 1960 presidential campaign when he and JFK just finished a fund-raising breakfast.

They were in the men’s room counting the take. Jack asked how much. Tip replied “$14,000 in checks, $9,000 in cash.” Jack said “give the treasurer the checks and give me the cash.” Tip paused and said “you know Jack, Sixth Ward of Cambridge, President of the United States - it’s the same game.”

That conversation comes to mind when we discuss what best qualifies a candidate for president and vice president. Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the U.S. Senate — same game?

No. Mayor of a small town anywhere is a much tougher job than U.S. senator. Senators live in a bubble filled with rarified air. They have huge staffs constantly sucking up. Lobbyists regularly kiss their butts. My national colleague Michael Medved calls senators nothing but overblown talk show hosts. They don’t have to run anything.

Mayors, particularly small-town mayors, have to face the folks they represent with great regularity. They usually fail and end their political career right there. The average mayor in southern Arizona or anywhere else has little hope of making it to higher office — few have. In the very first column I wrote for this newspaper several years ago, I quipped that most former mayors of Oro Valley now live in rural Idaho under assumed names. Tough job — ask Oro Valley’s Paul Loomis and Marana’s Ed Honea.

My problem with Barack Obama isn’t lack of political experience. That experience is sufficient to judge him. He has 12 years as a senator, eight in Illinois and four in Washington. He was just another water carrier for the Cook County machine, and a liberal partisan who never introduced let alone led anything relevant. Joe Biden is another charming hack who’s 36 years in the Senate amounts to the same year 36 times. Neither Obama nor Biden ever ran anything — they’re barely qualified for night manager at a convenience store. Maybe Wal-Mart greeter if they can remember where stuff is.

John McCain’s 22 years in the Senate has told us about him, too. Punch up my old columns berating him for his deviant behavior to conservative orthodoxy — evidence enough that he’s the real non-partisan guy with McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, McCain-Kennedy and the gang of 14.

More important, prior to his political career and unlike Obama and Biden, he actually had a life. Put aside the POW part. There aren’t many guys who barely make it out of a burning aircraft on a carrier deck and then head towards the fire. Tells you a lot. His later command of an outfit with over 1,000 people shows executive ability.

Many governors don’t or barely have that quality. Sarah Palin does or she wouldn’t be riding an 80 percent approval rate with Alaska voters. Alaska is harder to govern than many other states, particularly when you just busted the chops of the good old boys in charge of your own party by stomping them in a primary. “Reform,” “change,” blah blah — this lady has already kicked more butt than Obama ever imagined while he behaved like a good little apparatchik for the Chicago Machine that elected him.

Wretched pseudo-feminist harpies like Maureen Dowd and Sally Quinn come unglued over Palin. A woman who isn’t one of them isn’t really a woman at all. Sarah Palin scares the Hell out of them because she represents the very Middle America fly-over values these elitist snobs despise and barely grasp.

In choosing her, John McCain picked someone with real qualifications as opposed to those demanded by the liberal elite.

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