Trish Heckman, a 49-year-old restaurant cook and disappointed Hillary Clinton supporter, watched last week as the country's newest political star made her explosive debut.
She followed the news when John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, paid attention to the raging debate over her qualifications, even tuned in to watch her dramatic speech at the Republican convention.
But when it came down to the issues Heckman really cares about – sending a daughter to college on $10.50 an hour – her desire to see a woman reach the White House took a back seat to her depleted savings account.
“I wanted Hillary to win so bad, but I saw Sarah, and it just didn't work for me,” said Heckman, taking a break at J. Paul's restaurant in a downtown struggling to revive. “I have no retirement. Obama understands it's the economy. He knows how we live.”
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Interviews with about two dozen women here after Palin's convention speech found that these voters were not swayed by the speeches or personal biographies that marked both conventions. Instead, they are thinking about the price of milk – nearly $5 a gallon, or the health-care coverage that 46 million Americans lack.
Even if they admire Palin's attempt to juggle political ambition, an infant with Down syndrome and a pregnant unwed daughter, these women say that maternal grit is not enough to win their votes.