Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
- Odds on Palin dropping out of race (9-2-2008)
- With creeping pessimism, partisans fight for party’s soul (9-2-2008)
- Palin’s Priority: Parenting or Politics? (9-2-2008)
Nevadans at the Republican National Convention are ecstatic about Sarah Palin, the surprise pick of Sen. John McCain to be the party’s vice presidential nominee.
“I am tickled to pieces,” said Ulli Miyashiro, who lives in Las Vegas.
State Sen. Barbara Cegavske’s eyes lit up when asked about Palin.
Nevada delegates and their guests, and especially women, match the national mood of a Republican base thrilled that one of its own will be the nominee, according to Chuck Donovan, executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council.
The Sun interviewed nine Nevadans at the convention, including party veterans and newcomers. They were enthusiastic about her and eager to recount details they find compelling in Palin’s public record and private life.
The first-term Alaska governor was elected in 2006, taking on a party establishment soaked in alleged corruption and scandal.
Palin recently gave birth to her fifth child, her youngest, a Down syndrome baby. She’s a hunter and an angler, a fresh-faced former union member whose husband is blue collar and known as the “First Dude.”
All these attributes, plus a dose of evangelical Christianity, have the Republican base excited.
Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, called Palin’s appearance on the national scene inspirational. “It’s excitement we really needed,” Gansert said.
The response comes as an examination of Palin’s relatively thin resume has raised questions: Her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, which called attention to Palin’s support for abstinence-only education; Palin has hired a lawyer to deal with allegations and an investigation into whether she fired the public safety commissioner because he wouldn’t fire Palin’s former brother-in-law; her husband until 2002 was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, which has favored secession from the United States, and, contrary to statements at her weekend campaign appearances, she initially supported the “bridge to nowhere,” a federal project in remote Alaska that became synonymous with pork barrel spending.
The new information seemed to throw the campaign off message for a day as it entered its convention and raised doubts about how thoroughly McCain had vetted Palin. The McCain campaign has sent a team of operatives to Alaska to dig a bit deeper, NBC News reported.
At the same time, McCain’s opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, reached 50 percent support nationwide for the first time in a Gallup daily tracking poll.
To Republicans here, though, questions about Palin mostly represent carping from an elitist press corps hostile to their values. They said they believe McCain had thoroughly reviewed Palin’s history before making the choice. Mei Herbert of Sparks said she trusts McCain to make the right pick.
Danny Tarkanian said the new Palin revelations were minor, on par with Obama foibles: “You’ve got a candidate who’s admitted to using cocaine,” he said, referring to the Illinois junior senator’s admission of teenage drug dabbling.
A potential scenario emerged: As with President Bush and other Republican favorites, the more the media investigate and reveal, the more the Republican base will embrace her in the face of what it sees as unfair attacks.
“She’s tough, she shares our values and she gets things done,” said Brittney Evans, a delegate and aide to Rep. Jon Porter. Nevada delegates said Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy is a personal matter.
Delegates said the Republican base is finally energized about this election. Volunteers have streamed into the state party office in recent days, Gansert said.
Republican women were especially happy seeing one of their own take the national stage in a profession — especially on the Republican side — dominated by men.
Sue Lowden is chairwoman of the state party and a former state senator. “I’m so happy as a hockey mom and a pageant sister,” she said. (Palin’s entrance into the race has brought “hockey mom” into the political lexicon, and she was a pageant contestant, like Lowden, a former Miss New Jersey.)
Lowden praised Palin for taking on the Alaska Republican establishment and beating it: “You go girl!” she said.