Palin excites GOP base

Jonathon Martin:

The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has electrified conservative activists, providing a boost of energy to the GOP nominee-in-waiting from a key constituency that previously had been lukewarm — at best — about him.

By tapping the anti-abortion and pro-gun Alaska governor just ahead of his convention, which is set to start here Monday, McCain hasn’t just won approval from a skeptical Republican base — he’s ignited a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grass-roots activists to weep with joy.

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The media elite — as well as elite members of the GOP consulting community — have all but mocked Palin as a former small-town mayor with zero Washington experience. But that view of her totally misses the cultural resonance she carries to crucial Republican power centers and could not be more at odds with the jubilation felt among true believers that one of their own is on the ticket.

Palin, say conservative activists, has instantly changed how they feel about McCain’s campaign and spurred them to go to work for the Republican ticket.

First, though, they’re expressing their newfound fondness for McCain with their checkbooks. Since tapping Palin, the campaign has raised nearly $7 million online, according to McCain aides.

Most importantly for McCain, the two constituencies who are most energized by Palin just happen to be the twin grassroots pillars of the GOP: anti-abortion activists and pro-Second Amendment enthusiasts and sportsmen. Without these two camps making phone calls, stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors, Republican presidential candidates would severely lack for volunteers. They are critical to the health of the conservative coalition that has dominated Republican politics for a generation.

Republicans say the primary source for the passion can be found in Palin’s example and authenticity.

Not only is the 44-year-old governor opposed to abortion rights — but she carried and gave birth to a child with Down syndrome earlier this year, a profound and powerful motivating force to both opponents of abortion rights and the parents and relatives of special needs children.

And not only is she a supporter of the right to bear arms — but she’s a lifetime member of the NRA and an avid hunter and fisherman whose gubernatorial office couch is adorned with a massive grizzly bear pelt.

“She’s lived it!” exulted Yoest. “It’s so satisfying as a conservative woman. When she walked out on that stage there was just this moment. It was really emotional for a lot of us.”

After hearing the news, Yoest, who was in St. Paul preparing for the convention, said she and other Republican women here “were grabbing each other and jumping up and down.”

Steve Duprey, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman and top McCain backer who hails from the moderate wing of the party, was also in the Twin Cities when the news broke.

“I was in the Rules Committee with about 150 people in the room. They had TVs set up and we took a break to watch the announcement. For a second after she came out, it was silent. Then there was a gasp and everybody stood up and started cheering and clapping. We stayed standing the whole speech.”

After Palin finished, he said, the emotion set in.

“There were 10 or 12 women, party stalwarts, in tears, using napkins and handkerchiefs.”

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Muffett said the effect on his conservative comrades in arms has been immediate and visceral.

“My wife and I watched an MSNBC special on her last night,” he said. “My wife knew nothing about this woman. But she was in tears listening to her articulate the views she had.”

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Sportsmen are also overjoyed at the addition of one of their own, and can’t get enough of video and pictures showing Palin firing a weapon.

“She's one of us,” wrote Michael Bane, a prominent Colorado-based gun enthusiast who has a show on the Outdoor Channel, on his blog. “FINALLY, we can get 100 percent behind the Republican ticket ... change we can believe in!”

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And then there is the contrast: “While [Barack Obama] wants to ban AR-15s, Palin shoots AR-15s, and apparently pretty well.”

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There is more excitement in the story. Rush Limbaugh makes the point that she excites the base voters more than she is attracting Hillary voters and he believes that is more important. She may be the youngest of the four running but she has the most executive experience of any. Her pro gun position contrast sharply with Biden's anti gun position. The hunters and sportsmen will be thrilled. They are all looking for pictures of her using a gun.

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