On debate's eve: Dems writhing, Repubs digging Palin
A little over a month after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) surprised the world with his female VP pick, democrats aren't the only ones criticizing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Palin is "out of her league," wrote the conservative commentator Kathleen Parker in a September 26 editorial in New Republic that followed what many have called an "embarrassing" three-part interview last week with Katie Couric. (That interview was the subject of Tina Fey's second biting Palin impersonation on SNL, the punch line of which was Palin asking Couric for a "lifeline" la game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.)
Yet despite the mounting questions and criticism, on the eve of the one and only vice presidential debate this Thursday, October 2, some local Republicans say they still believe the plucky Governor from Alaska has what it takes to fill the nation's number two slot.
"She's been a good role model," says UVA researcher Laura Berger. "She says, 'You can have it all, you don't have to be a liberal who's backing quotas for women in the workplace.'"
Attorney Cyndra Van Clief, co-chair of the Albemarle division of Virginia Women for McCain/Palin is also standing behind the candidate.
"I think she's totally qualified and would be very exciting regardless of her gender," says Van Clief. "She came from not well-placed parents, regular folks, who have worked hard. She worked her way up, she stepped up to the plate on so many levels. It's great to see her having this position of prominence."
Regarding Palin's stumbles with the press last week, Van Clief is unconcerned.
"I think when the time comes this Thursday," says Van Clief, "she will be able to address the issues that concern us."
Democrats, of course, find Palin ever more terrifying– not just for her clearly stated positions on abortion and the environment, but for her as-yet-unproven ability to ably discuss foreign affairs.
When Palin took the stage at the Republican National Convention in late August, Mandy Hoy was paying close attention. Although she was already an Obama supporter, she says she was curious to hear what Palin would say– particularly because Hoy, like Palin, is a "hockey mom." And Palin's message didn't please her.
"I wanted to tear all my hair out of my head," says Hoy. "She doesn't speak for me on choice, on creationism, on taxes, she doesn't speak for me on anything."
Beyond specific issues, Hoy says, she's been struck by Palin's "hubris."
"What horrifies me the most is that she did not hesitate in saying that she was prepared to have this job," says Hoy, referring to an answer Palin gave in her interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, the first televised interview she gave in mid-September.
"I've been an executive director of a nonprofit, I have a kid, and I'm not prepared. I know a lot of smart organized people, and I don't think any of us would say, without blinking, 'Yeah, I'm ready,'" says Hoy. "Aren't we finished with eight years of someone who says this?"
The debate flared up at a local political website where a Henley Middle School teacher publicly doubted not just credentials, but Palin's recent maternity– or alleged maternity– based on Palin's seemingly superhuman ability to gave a speech in Texas after her water broke and then take an 8-hour flight and a 2-hour ride to a remote Alaskan site to have her baby, Trig.
"And then go to work three days later, like nothing happened, with a flat stomach?" Margie Shepherd concluded at george.loper.org. "No way that baby is hers."
With such distrust swirling and with Obama's poll numbers surging after the September 26 presidential debate, in a week when McCain suspended and then unsuspended his campaign, there is mounting pressure for Palin to pull off a strong debate performance.
But no matter how Palin performs Thursday, Berger says the McCain/Palin ticket will still get her vote.
"I'm voting for the top of the ticket," says Berger. Palin, she acknowledges, might need some time to get up to speed on issues, but she "interjects a level of energy in the McCain campaign that it needed."