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Palin makes appeal to women voters

Thousands, including several protesters, attend afternoon Henderson rally

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Heather Cory

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, rallied thousands of fans at the Henderson Pavilion on Tuesday.

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008 | 5:01 p.m.

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Palin speaks in Henderson

Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, left, arrives for a rally with daughters Piper, right, 7, and Willow, center, 13, and son Trig (held by Willow) in Henderson, Nev. Oct. 21, 2008. Launch slideshow »

By the time Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin strode onto the stage at the Henderson Pavilion today, her crunch-time strategy for Nevada was obvious.

Backed by a panel that included prominent members of the National Organization for Women, female members of the Democratic National Platform Committee and the editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine, it was clear — Palin was after the women’s vote, which she said is still up in the air.

“Our opponents think they have the women’s vote all locked up, which is a little presumptuous, because only our side has a woman on the ticket,” Palin said.

And, with the election two weeks away, she appealed to the crowd to vote for the Republican ticket.

"Nevada, from now until voting day, which is coming so soon, you will hear our opponents go on and on about how they will fight for you," Palin said. Palin continued her ongoing slogan that only one man in the campaign has fought for the country and that man is John McCain.

Palin received a rock star’s welcome from the crowd, which Henderson Parks and Recreation officials estimated to be more than 7,000, particularly when she brought Lee Greenwood on the stage to sing the national anthem and “God Bless the U.S.A.”

The crowd loved her, though she gave a notably softer speech than in recent weeks, with fewer direct attacks on Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama. There was no mention of associations and just a passing mention of him being a socialist.

However, Palin did fire a few rounds at Obama, accusing him of underpaying the female members of his Senate staff and slighting former opponent Hillary Clinton in his vice presidential selection process.

“The working women of this country, those who work inside the home as well as those who work outside of it, have been overlooked by our politicians, and Barack Obama hasn’t given us any reason to believe that he would change that,” Palin said.

The Obama campaign quickly refuted the charges, issuing a response from Obama campaign adviser Anita Dunn saying the study Palin cited regarding Obama’s Senate payrolls was incomplete and that the campaign has a number of high-ranking women.

“Senator Obama has fought for equal pay for an equal day’s work, while Senator McCain has suggested that women don’t get equal pay because they need more education and training,” Dunn said. “While Senator Obama has proposed a plan to help working women, the McCain-Palin campaign offers just more negative attacks and distortions.”

In the remainder of her speech, Palin promoted McCain’s plan to achieve energy independence through a combination of investing in domestic production of coal, natural gas and oil, as well as promoting renewable sources like solar, wind and biomass.

“John and I will adopt an all-of-the-above approach,” she said. “We must do this. We have 30 years of failed energy policy that has not moved us toward energy independence.”

In addition to being an advocate for women’s rights worldwide, Palin pledged that, if elected, she would be an advocate for families with special needs children.

“John and I have a vision of an America where every innocent life counts and every child has a chance,” she said. “And that is the spirit that I hope to bring to Washington, D.C.”

Palin’s speech resonated strongly with the women in the audience.

“I was surprised that her message was more about women today, but I thought it was great,” said Henderson resident Ruthie Fox. “I think women should feel empowered by her.”

When Palin mentioned the debt of gratitude women owed to the female reformers who came before them, Sun City Anthem residents Veronica Westurn and Donna Lakers said they felt Palin was talking to them.

“We are the women that (Palin) talked about, that laid the groundwork,” Westurn said. “It’s wonderful to be able to see this. We never could have dreamed that dream when we were that age, but it’s wonderful that she can.”

Before the Palin event, a long line snaked from the Henderson Pavilion out to Green Valley Parkway. Once inside, the crowd filled the 2,400 seats and spilled over onto the lawn.

Jon Ralston, a Sun political columnist at the event, wrote to those on his e-mail newsletter list that the crowd was raucus, with Obama-bashing going on. He wrote that some protesters were calling Obama a terrorist.

Republican Rep. Jon Porter, state Sen. Bob Beers and Clark County Commission candidate Brian Scroggins warmed up the crowd, with state Sen. Bob Beers imploring people to volunteer.

Across the street at the Paseo Verde Library, Democrats were trying to stage a rally to get people to vote early and to protest what the Democrats are saying is a campaign to suppress voting.

However, the parking lot to the Democratic rally was jammed with cars trying to get to the Palin rally. So the Democrats are going to delay their own rally until more people arrive.

In Reno earlier today, Palin went on the attack against Barack Obama, saying the Democratic presidential candidate would "redistribute wealth." She also said the Democratic ticket is unprepared for an international crisis.

- Sun writers J. Patrick Coolican, Amanda Finnegan and Dave Toplikar contributed to this story.

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