When Republican John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate, he was hoping to win voters like Raleigh Democrat Brenda Lankshear.
“I'm leaning McCain because of Palin,” says Lankshear, who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton. “To see a woman in the White House, even if it's a vice president, means more to me as a woman, and it would mean a lot to the country.”
Interviews with a dozen N.C. women, including independents, suggest Palin is drawing support from voters intrigued by the notion of a female governor on the ticket.
Others are skeptical.
“If I were considering Mr. McCain, this would ensure that I would not vote for him,” says Sandy Dupuy, an unaffiliated voter from Charlotte. “There were so many other good choices he could have made.”
How women react to McCain's choice could be decisive.
According to exit polls, women made up 59 percent of N.C. voters in the 2004 presidential election, and 57percent in this year's Democratic primary.
Emily's List, a group that supports abortion-rights Democratic women, on Wednesday released a poll of women that concluded that the anti-abortion Palin would be a drag on the Republican ticket, particularly when women learn more about her conservatism and relative lack of experience. A series of polls from USA Today taken before and after the Palin pick found she did little to change McCain's standing with women.
But some N.C. women are ready to give her a chance.
Only pandering? ‘We like it'
“I'm pretty impressed,” says Elaine Young, a mortgage banker and mother of two from Charlotte. “Since I'm a working mom, I kind of feel like she's busted her butt to get where she is and that's a great thing.”
Young said she was impressed by Palin's speech Wednesday night.
“She is confident, she's concise, she's well-spoken and she knows her facts,” Young said.
Cheryl Medlin of Rockingham County was visiting her sister in Fairbanks, Alaska, this summer when she ran into Palin on a downtown street. Though not excited by either McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, she says Palin's selection “sealed the package” for McCain.
“She would be wonderful for us,” says Medlin, who considers herself an independent. “Down to earth, hard worker … She's an American family. What we deal with every day.”
Along with independents, McCain also hopes to win over disgruntled Clinton supporters.
During last week's Democratic convention, he launched a TV ad featuring a clip of the New York senator saying, “I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.”
Many Clinton supporters rallied around Obama after the convention. But for some die-hards, Palin's gender trumps ideology.
“Somebody said (McCain's) only pandering to you guys – I said, ‘We like it,'” says Jyoti Friedland, a Charlotte chef and pro-Clinton demonstrator in Denver. “We believe this country now deserves a woman to be a president or vice president and the Democrats lost the chance. This is my revenge vote.”
Treatment of Clinton, Palin family
Anne Marie Doherty of Asheville was a Clinton delegate who supports Obama. But she worries that news stories, such as those about Palin's pregnant teenage daughter, could push women to McCain.
“The more they attack (Palin) personally, it's going to polarize women,” she says. Some Clinton backers, she adds, are “feeling the media is treating her unfairly the way they did Hillary.”
Alice McMullen, an unaffiliated voter and retiree from Huntersville, calls Palin “a breath of fresh air.” She's tired of stories about her family. “Anyone who has had teenage children just is very sympathetic,” she says.
Sarah Binder, an independent from Charlotte, calls Palin “a good choice.”
“She has managed a budget in her office and she brings some energy to the Republican Party,” she says. “She sort of has that same maverick personality that John McCain has.”
But Binder says Palin “is not going to sway my decision.”
“It's just going to come down to the issues I decide are most important to me,” she says, “health care and the economy.” For the moment, she's leaning toward Obama.
Though she expects to vote for Obama, McMullen says it might be different if Palin were atop the GOP ticket.
That, she says, “would be a heck of a lot better.”
Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059.