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Is Palin For Real? « The Washington Independent

On the press bus en route to the Aug. 29 McCain campaign rally in Dayton — where Sen. John McCain was to announce Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate — the mood was one of disbelief. Reporters — myself included — debated the wisdom of the move, and whether it would spell the end of McCain’s bid for the presidency.

Now, as I watch Palin speak on TV, at a campaign rally in Lee’s Summit, Mo., the crowd is eating out of her hand. It’s hard to believe how wrong I was. It’s clear that Palin is tapping into something real.

Maeve Reston of The Los Angeles Times writes:

On the GOP ticket’s first post-convention stop, supporters jammed the streets of Cedarburg, Wis. And in Sterling Heights, Mich., there were more than 7,000 people chanting — not McCain’s name, but “Sa-rah! Sa-rah!”

Much the same happened later that night in Albuquerque, where a crowd of 6,000 appeared. Dustin Spilsbury, whose 3-year-old daughter was hoisted on his shoulders, summed up his Sarah Palin fever as he watched her work the rope line.

“I’m ready for her for president — I wish it was switched,” said Spilsbury, a 30-year-old auto glass technician who lives with his wife, Shannon, and their two children in nearby Rio Rancho, N.M. “We love her. I just wasn’t going to vote at all, [but] she sold us both.”

“She does more things than we do — the hunting and the fishing, the outdoors stuff, the kids and the bills. She understands us,” he said.

Nearby, Kim Barnard, a pastor and 36-year-old mother of three, said choosing Palin “was the best thing [McCain] ever could have done.”

“We know a lot of people who were not going to vote for McCain because he’s old,” Barnard said. “She brings a fresh breath to the Republican Party; she just kind of energized the entire campaign. . . . She seems very tenacious — she’s going to go get it and I really love that about her.”

If Reston’s sample is representative of much of blue-collar America, the Obama campaign may have a serious problem. It seems possible that Palin could spark a McCain resurgence in some Midwestern swing states where Sen. Barack Obama had made historic inroads — like Indiana and Missouri.

Of course, it is early in Palin’s courtship of voters. It’s still unclear if her popularity spreads beyond the GOP’s conservative base to independents. There are major unanswered questions about her real record in Alaska, and she remains untested by the media.

Still, Palin’s folksiness and, dare I say, “mom-ishness” seems to appeal to a lot of people, who may see themselves in Palin and her life story. She is attracting enthusiastic crowds previously unthinkable for McCain on his own. Could it be true that some Americans long to cast their vote for someone just like them?

Common sense dictates that when people step into the voting booth, they vote for the presidential candidate, not the veep. However, as Marc Ambinder notes, just because that is traditionally the case, doesn’t mean it always has to be.

Palin represents something new and engaging on an otherwise lackluster, decidedly not-exciting ticket. If Palin’s current popularity holds, this may be a year in which many Americans actually cast their votes for the bottom of the ticket, rather than the top.

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