Palin’s female backers offer steadfast support
September 3, 2008
Source: The Dallas Morning News
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The moment John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, she ignited a fervent base of supporters – socially conservative women – who see her as the embodiment of their ideals and finally, a reason to embrace the ticket.
No amount of clamoring about teenage pregnancy is about to change that. Instead, it is stoking the ardor.
“She was a hockey mom, she became a mayor, she understands the values of America,” said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America. “Every day, American women especially face challenges in their private lives, and surely she is no different.”
Texas GOP chairwoman Tina Benkiser said she got goosebumps after hearing Ms. Palin was the vice presidential pick. Texas Eagle Forum president Cathie Adams called the bear-hunting, anti-abortion candidate “the kind of woman I’ve been looking for all along.”
In the last four months, on top of being selected as Mr. McCain’s running mate, Ms. Palin has returned to work after giving birth to a special-needs child, hit the campaign trail with five kids at home and told the world she has an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter.
To many fighting for what they call traditional family values, these challenges only make Ms. Palin more endearing and more representative of the trials that women endure. And the McCain-Palin team will need such voters in the tight race against the Democrats.
“If she can run a state, she’s smart enough to figure out how to get her family taken care of,” Ms. Combs said.
James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, called Ms. Palin no less than a blessing.
“A lot of people were praying, and I believe Sarah Palin is God’s answer,” he told conservative leaders at a forum this week.
In a statement issued after the daughter’s pregnancy was revealed, Mr. Dobson was no less supportive.
“They should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances,” he said.
While to some Ms. Palin is a Northern light, among other women’s groups she is a polar opposite and cynical substitute for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak for women?” asked Kim Gandy, head of the National Organization for Women’s political committee. “The answer is clearly no.”
A Davy Crockett
Ms. Palin takes the stage tonight at the convention. To her fans, the popping of critics is galling: her paucity of national credentials, the investigation into the firing of Alaska’s public safety commissioner, and getting on a plane and flying for eight hours after she began leaking amniotic fluid.
To them, she is the Davy Crockett of politics, making moose jerky while routing corrupt politicians and slashing budgets. She is as pure anti-abortion as they could ever hope for. And, by the way, they believe she’s the woman who can shatter that Oval Office glass ceiling.
“When we first heard it was Sarah Palin, it was ‘oh my goodness.’ At first I cried. It’s just been a smile that can’t go away,” said Mrs. Adams of the Eagle Forum, an influential conservative organization.
As for the questions that have been cropping up since, “There is no pause for me, whatsoever,” she said. “I mean, they’re doing everything right.”
Ellen Malcolm, founder of Emily’s List, which raises money for female candidates who support abortion rights, sees it differently.
“McCain clearly sees the power of women voters in this election but has just as clearly failed to support any of the issues that they care about. His choice for vice president only reinforces that failure,” she said.
Ms. Palin has opposed contraception, abortion rights and protecting women in the workplace, her critics say.
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison praised Ms. Palin and her handling of the announcement that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant.
“My heart goes out to her family, and I think they are facing this crisis as any family would. Many people relate to issues where a child has made a mistake, and you want to work with that child and support that child. That’s what she’s doing,” Ms. Hutchison said.
Republican Jane Swift, the former Massachusetts governor who gave birth to twins in 2001, is the last woman to hold significant office while so publicly juggling a young family. But the pressures of motherhood and some self-inflicted political missteps forced her to drop out of her election contest, which was eventually won by Mitt Romney.
While male candidates – Barack Obama, for instance – have young children at home, Ms. Palin will be the first national test for women.
“We haven’t had a mother of young children serving at high national office. This election will tell us whether we are ready for that,” said SMU religion and politics professor Matthew Wilson.
For religious and social conservatives, a major indiscretion would have to be disclosed about Ms. Palin for her to lose their confidence, Dr. Wilson said.
“Otherwise they’ll be powerfully drawn to her,” he said. “She has helped to close the enthusiasm gap between the two tickets.”