Sarah Palin brings ‘Palin mania’ as McCain woos small town USA
September 6, 2008
In a sweep through the swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin, Mr McCain was met by the kind of near-hysterical crowds previously seen only at campaign events for his Democratic rival, Barack Obama.
More than 6,000 exultant supporters turned out on Friday night in Sterling Heights, a town in Michigan’s Macomb County, home of the Reagan-Democrats, the small town blue collar voters who propelled Ronald Reagan to the White House in the 1980s and hold the key to victory this year.
Where he once played to a few hundred people, Mr McCain was greeted by an electrified crowd chanting “Sa-rah, Sa-rah!”, “John Mc-Cain, John Mc-Cain!” and “U-S-A!”
Mrs Palin immediately spelt out how the McCain campaign will take on Obama Barack in the final 60 days before November’s election, targeting patriotic voters unconvinced by the Democratic candidate’s national security and economic credentials.
“We went right from the convention to small town USA,” she said. “It’s true that they grow good people, people who are working hard for America.
You love your country in good times and bad and you’re always proud to be Americans.”
The self-described “hockey mom” wooed her peers, holding up a Detroit Red Wings hockey shirt and describing how her son Track, now a soldier soon to deploy to Iraq, once played for a local team. “Michigan, you took care of my boy and now that boy is serving in the US Army and he’s going to take care of you.” Casting the double act as political outsiders, Mr McCain urged voters to “send a team of mavericks who aren’t afraid to go to Washington and break a little china”.
As he discussed the need to launch domestic oil drilling, the crowd launched into a deafening and prolonged chant of “Drill, Baby, Drill!”
Apparently bewildered by the rock star status now accorded his campaign, Mr McCain said rather demurely: “I don’t know who thought up that one but it’s a very popular one.” Once again he was upstaged by his running mate. In the crowd, a poster proclaimed: “Sarah You are The One,” a sly dig at Mr Obama.
Another read “Real Women are Pro-Life”, a reference to Mrs Palin’s anti-abortion stance.
That point was reinforced by the presence in the crowd of a 40-strong group of nuns in white habits. Sister Thomas Augustin, 44, of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, said: “I think she really speaks for women in a way that Hillary Clinton does not. She loves her husband and her children and I think that disaffected people who were on the fence are going to support her.”
It had been assumed by many commentators that Mrs Palin could not win over those supporters of Mrs Clinton with whom she differs on abortion. But women waving “Democrats for McCain” posters were highly visible.
Barbara Fee, 50, another Democrat for McCain who works for a car supplier, said: “I just don’t like Obama. I believe that his ideas are socialist. I love Sarah Palin. I like what she’s done and how she’s done it. She’s got spunk.”
Janet Smith, 41, a special education teacher from Flint Township is a registered Democrat who supported Mrs Clinton in the Democratic primary. But she said she was now backing Mr McCain.
She said: “I just don’t have a good gut feeling that Obama has what it takes to lead this country. I’m an American first before I’m a party member. McCain is an American first; he’s bringing back patriotism.”
Mr McCain, who trails in statewide Michigan polls, was keen to convert the enthusiasm into votes: “A little straight talk,” he said. “I need to win Michigan. There’s 60 days left. I need you to get out there and vote.”
Today Mr McCain and Mrs Palin are taking their message to the swing states of Colorado and New Mexico. Mrs Palin will conduct her first solo campaign event on Monday in Pennsylvania, home state of her vice presidential rival Joe Biden.