Just as Sarah Palin was preparing to speak at the Republican convention in St. Paul (more on that momentarily), word bubbled up that the National Enquirer alleged in its print edition that John McCain's running mate had an affair with a business partner to her husband. With the sensational charge, the supermarket tabloid is gambling the measure of respect it has earned from more buttoned-down media in the wake of its reporting on John Edwards's affair with a campaign staffer, which was partially admitted to be true by Edwards himself. And early signs are that it may lose that gamble: The Enquirer issued a wishy-washy statement to the Huffington Post addressing its charges only in the context of other allegations, rather than backing them head-on:

"The National Enquirer's coverage of a vicious war within Sarah Palin's extended family includes several newsworthy revelations, including the resulting incredible charge of an affair plus details of family strife when the Governor's daughter revealed her pregnancy. Following our John Edwards' exclusives, our political reporting has obviously proven to be more detail-oriented than the McCain campaign's vetting process."

The McCain camp issued a full-throated denial and threatened to sue, though it's worth noting that Edwards at first outright denied the Enquirer's affair charges in late 2007.

The Enquirer promises a fuller report next week. Will the traditional press discuss the story in the meantime? Probably not. Though some publications seemed to regret their silence during the Enquirer's reporting on the Edwards affair, the tabloid had more evidence then on Edwards than it does now on Palin. Edwards was seen going into a hotel where his mistress was staying, and ran from reporters when he was confronted hours later as he tried to leave. And he failed to reiterate a real denial of the charges.

Hopefully some enterprising news outlets will at least attempt to investigate the Enquirer's allegations, however. Now's your chance to shine. Anchorage Daily News!

[Huffington Post]