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03 Palin reaction_Stolle

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

ST. PAUL — The buzz at the Republican National Convention first focused on a hurricane named Gustav. Now the hot topic is GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate.

"There has been a lot of discussion" among the delegates, said state Rep. Randy Demmer, a Hayfield Republican and a national delegate. "People are very excited about her."

Area Republican delegates leave little doubt that the gun-toting, socially conservative Palin is a big hit with the conservative base. McCain rallies are now said to be bigger and more enthusiastic because of her presence on the ticket.

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But her selection as running mate has injected a new element of uncertainty into McCain’s campaign. Questions have been raised about the level of care and scrutiny the McCain camp used in vetting her background, and whether it knew in advance about Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter and her husband’s drunk driving conviction.

They come on top of concerns about whether Palin, who is two years removed from being mayor of a city of 8,000, has the experience and judgment to be the nation’s commander-in-chief if a President McCain should become incapacitated in office. McCain reportedly met with Palin once before making his decision.

They come on top of concerns about whether Palin, who is two years removed from being mayor of a city of 8,000, has the experience and judgment to be the nation’s commander-in-chief if a President McCain should become incapacitated in office. McCain reportedly met with Palin once before making his decision.

Thus, her speech to the convention and a national audience today could carry as much weight as the one McCain will make on Thursday, the convention’s final day, when he accepts his party’s nomination.

The fact that Palin espouses a socially conservative standard that her family has on occasion fallen short of should not be cause for disqualification, area Republicans say. In fact, it’s none of their business, said Duane Quam, a Byron resident and alternate to the convention.

"It’s a personal matter," Quam said. "I really try not to comment on personal matters. It doesn’t have an effect on me supporting her."

Indeed, the reaction of most local Republicans is one of sympathy.

"Things happen to you that you don’t have control over. How you deal with those situations is often as important as what happens to you," Demmer said.

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Far from seeing it as a poorly thought-out decision, Demmer called McCain’s selection a "bold new direction by McCain." By picking a woman with a reputation as a reformer willing to take on the corrupt status quo in Alaska, McCain showed a commitment to "bringing change to Washington," he said.

Olmsted County Democrats see the issue differently. Lynn Wilson, chairwoman of the Olmsted County Democratic Party, said that by picking someone with so little experience, particularly in foreign policy, McCain failed his first major test as the GOP’s presidential nominee.

"I think it speaks volumes about his judgment, or lack thereof," she said.

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