(St. Paul, Minnesota)
“You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick!” And with that, the crowd erupted in laughter. It was the line of the night from Sarah Palin, and it stole the show!
It wasn’t in the prepared text emailed to reporters right before the speech. It was spontaneous and funny, and from the heart.
Sarah Palin is a contender. Critics hoping for another “Dan Quayle” type deer-in-the-headlights campaign better forget it. This lady is for real.
She spoke of being a mom with five kids; that after twenty years of marriage her husband Todd “was still my guy”; and that her entre into politics was the PTA, simply because she wanted to improve her kids’ schools. That led to a city council race; then small town mayor; then maverick Governor of Alaska; and all of a sudden the Vice-presidential nomination. How on earth did this improbable journey happen?
“Any mother of five makes many more executive decisions than Barack Obama,” said Paula Campbell, a mom from Niceville, Florida, “I witnessed the first female Vice-president of the United States tonight.”
Mary Bowman from Iowa said, “I think it’s the fact that she has no pretentions. She’s a very grounded human being with a solid set of values, in addition to being very capable as an executive.”
After the speech, I ran into 26 year old Jenniffer Rodriguez of Fremont, California, who was getting a text message from her mom. “She’s a feisty one,” the text said. Rodriguez is sold on Palin, just like her mom. “As a governor, she’s a reformer,” Rodriguez said, “She’s a Washington outsider. She’s an experienced executive who runs a state. That’s what we need.”
“I think she just inspires women,” said Kymber Ebron-Phillips of Oklahoma City. “The average female can have a family as well as a career. Juggle! That’s what we do.” Ebron-Phillips is African American and a Democrat. She is still undecided, but may vote for McCain-Palin.
What these four women have in common, is they can relate to Palin. She’s a mom; she’s a wife; she has a job; she’s a juggler! And she cares about her family, neighbors and community. She’s just good and decent. Nothing more complicated than that.
Palin is not a great public speaker. Some of her delivery tonight was stilted and flat, like she was reading it off of cue cards. (Actually she had a teleprompter).
She is not a Barack Obama caliber speaker, but that may not matter. What she lacks in eloquence, she more than makes up for in sincerity. No one in this race is an “everyman.” Not McCain, not Biden and not Obama. All have ridden to the top via privilege, hard work or good graces. The only “everyman” in the race is Sarah Palin (or should I say “everywoman.”)
My point is, a lot of women like her because they can say, “She’s just like me.” They relate. They connect. She’s authentic.
Palin has a son going off to war in Iraq; she has a new baby with Down’s Syndrome; and she has a pregnant teenage daughter, plus three other kids to feed. Oh, and she also has to run the state of Alaska. She juggles! “Our family has the same ups and downs as any others,” she said, not with complaint, but with humility.
She’s also not shy of taking on the political power structure, whether it was defeating an incumbent Republican Governor in Alaska, or much of the Washington, DC press corps which “sliced and diced” her all week. To the media she had this to say: “Here’s a little news flash. I’m not going to Washington to serve their opinion. I am going to Washington to serve the great people of this country.” Ouch!
All this made a real impression, perhaps not on the press, but on all the mom’s and working women in the crowd.
Take Democrat Kymber Ebron-Phillips of Oklahoma City who is still an undecided voter. She liked Palin’s speech. “I thought it was amazing,” said Ebron-Phillips, “She just seems so down to earth.”
The Democrats dreams of retaking the White House may come crashing to Earth, if they fail to take Sarah Palin and her appeal seriously.
I’ll be blogging all day tomorrow. Check in at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.