The minute John McCain announced Sarah Palin my take on this presidential campaign completely changed. And after Palin’s speech Wednesday night, I’m even more excited.
If you want to know why, read this article.
The first point is that most evangelicals and Mormons think somewhat differently. While the attached article profiles a pretty typical evangelical familiy, I agree there are many differences with your typical Mormon family.
So I am not claiming that Sarah Palin somehow resonates specifically with Mormons.
But I do think she resonates very well with Western, outdoors-oriented family people. And as most readers here know, there are a huge amount of American Mormons who fit that category.
Sarah Palin went to college in Idaho. Check. She married relatively young. Check. She feels comfortable in the outdoors. Check. She has five children. Check. She is an “I can do it all” type of woman who is constantly busy. Check. She has a tough side as well as an obviously feminine side. Check. She is a good public speaker. Check.
To sum up: is there any doubt that if she were traveling across the plains with her family, she would get out and help push the cart? (Believe me, I have gone out with plenty of women who would NOT get out and help push the cart no matter what).
So, Sarah Palin fits in (in a general sense) with a vision of the typical Mormon woman and seems to have some of the Mormon pioneer ethos that we as a culture consider important and heroic.
So, my prediction is that Sarah will be enormously popular with Western Mormon woman (and indeed with middle American women generally) and much less so with your typical New York feminist liberal who is really worried about protecting abortion rights. McCain must have known that when he picked Sarah that he would never win the New York feminist demographic anyway.
But has McCain picked up any additional votes from picking Sarah Palin? Well, this Rasmussen poll may help us find out. She is apparently more popular than either McCain or Obama. Several polls taken Thursday show that Palin has helped McCain overcome the boost Obama got post-convention. So the race is all tied up again.
I am the first to admit that Palin could say something really stupid and become the target of endless Saturday Night Live jokes. The media will be uncovering ever rock in Alaska looking for dirt on her, and they may find something damaging. Things could change.
But Palin really does improve things for McCain and there really are two reasons.
1)The conservative base was extremely depressed about a McCain presidency. The “hold your nose and vote for McCain” phenomenon was real. If McCain had chosen Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge, he would have lost votes among conservatives. They would not have gone out to volunteer for him and many of them would have stayed home on election day. That has all changed. Enthusiasm among conservatives is the highest I have seen it since 1984 when Reagan was going for his second term.
Why? Because conservatives felt in their hearts that McCain hated them and would have run a quasi-Democrat administration in which conservatives were shunned. Palin, a true conservative, proves that conservatives will have a voice in a McCain administration, and that’s huge.
2)Independents and undecideds. This is the big unknown in this campaign. Let me give you one example. I have a business associate who is your typical undecided independent who leans Democrat. She is very concerned about Obama’s lack of experience, but she hates President Bush and was going to vote for Obama. I urged her to watch Palin’s speech, which she did. Afterwards, she was extremely impressed with Palin and even had a higher opinion of McCain. Now she is leaning toward voting for McCain.
How many voters are there who fit that profile? I don’t think we know, but Palin will probably win more votes among them than lose.
OK, back to Palin and Mormons. What difference does that make? Well, the Mormon populations of two swing states — Nevada and Colorado — are significant. If she can influence 50,000 votes in those states, it will be enough for them to go McCain’s way. And given that she has a lot in common with the typical middle American and Western woman, I think it helps more than it hurts.