Friday, 31 October 2008

Piling in for Palin

I do not follow American politics - our own brand causes high blood pressure and spots before the eyes - but I do find the Palin woman attractive. Not in the sexual connotation (I'm 75 for Christ sake!) but as a new player on the scene with none of the tired old mannerisms one sees elsewhere. I had hoped that Condy Rice would put her hat in the ring but I suppose she appreciates that her private life would become an issue that she does not want to have to defend or justify in what would become cruel and ultra-personal campaigning by her opponents. So, it was a little heartening to read this report:

DALLAS (Reuters) - Sarah Palin has emerged as the new darling of social conservatives, and this political capital could make her an influential vice president -- or propel her as a candidate for the prime spot in 2012 But even within Republican circles the moose-hunting Alaska governor is a polarizing figure who highlights her party's divisions between fiscal conservatives and conservative Christians united by their strident opposition to abortion and gay rights.

"If they do in fact lose on Tuesday she becomes one of the central figures for 2012," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "Clearly, Palin is a star with the social conservatives but many of the country-club Republicans just find her completely unpalatable," he said.

The 44-year-old mother of five has become the northern light that has electrified the Republican Party's conservative evangelical base -- its most reliable voting bloc. She has won conservative hearts and minds on many fronts: she is a devout evangelical; she chose to have a child even when she knew through prenatal tests he would have Down syndrome; she is a populist; and she knows how to use a gun. Polls show the McCain/Palin ticket currently losing ground with many demographic groups but still retaining the support of around two out of three white evangelical Protestants.

McCain, who has broken with this wing of the party on many key issues including his support for stem cell research and his failure to back a federal amendment to ban gay marriage, could not garner this level of evangelical support without Palin, analysts say. A Pew Research Center poll conducted from October 23 to 26 found 93 percent of registered voters that categorize themselves as conservative Republicans backed McCain. A number of influential conservative Christians including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention have pegged Palin as the rising star of the Republican Party's social conservative wing. If McCain loses on Tuesday, this puts her near or at the front of the Republican pack for 2012.

"I think that she will be a major contender ... and she will certainly be in the running," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an influential conservative lobby group with strong evangelical ties.

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