Call it a “Hockey Mom” haven! It was a weird twist of fate that the Republican National Convention was long planned for the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this summer. The same arena is home to the Minnesota Wild NHL Hockey team. The choice was made long before Gov. Sarah Palin was on the national political horizon. So, it was ironic that the self-professed hockey mom of Alaska would stand front and center in St. Paul to accept the Vice-presidential nomination of the Republican Party.
Academics call this symbiosis. Business gurus call it synergy. Political analysts call it luck!
And “Luck be my lady,” said John McCain. I grew up in Wisconsin, so I knew immediately when I heard Palin speak that she would be a hit with Midwesterners, especially moms. You see, it’s one thing to be a soccer mom in a warm weather climate, schlepping kids to and from the field on a sunny day. It’s quite another thing to plow through snow banks, and blinding white-outs to get to the hockey ring.
There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat hockey mom, either. It’s just hockey mom! When I interviewed several women after Palin’s acceptance speech, I lost count of how many said, “She’s just like me” and “I can relate to her.” Palin clearly struck a chord as a working woman and a mom. It wasn’t necessarily a partisan thing, which brings me to today’s question.
Could Minnesota be the spoiler in the Presidential race? This state has long been a bastion of liberalism, sending Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale to the Vice-presidency. But it is also the state that likes to stick its thumb in the eye of "politics as usual." Pro wrestler Jesse Ventura for Governor and Comedian Al Franken for Senate are testimony to that.
Suffice it to say, Minnesotans are fiercely independent. They go their own way, and it appears many are now going Palin’s way. This was once considered a safe state for Barack Obama. Not any more. The latest "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" poll has it tied at 45 percent apiece. All of a sudden Minnesota is a toss-up. Trust me; it has more to do with Palin than McCain. And with ten electoral votes at stake, it’s hard to imagine Barack Obama winning the White House without the Gopher State.
Palin has this “aw shucks” persona. When I saw her speak in St. Paul, the first image I had was of Marge Gunderson, the Chief of Police in the movie “Fargo” which won an Oscar for actress Frances McDormand. She was the unassuming, folksy small-town cop who was methodically tracking down serial killers. She was more Harriet Nelson, than Dirty Harry. And that’s why people like Marge Gunderson, the cop, and Sarah Palin, the politician. Unassuming, get-the-job-done professionals, while trying to hold down a family. It appears to be playing well in Minnesota.
To paraphrase a critical scene in the movie, it appears Barack Obama’s Minnesota campaign strategy may be getting shredded “back there in the wood-chipper.”
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