"You go, girl!"
That's how the Fox News image of Gov. Sarah Palin striding onto center stage at the Republican National Convention was greeted in McGinley's Pub Wednesday night by one of the loudest voices in a crowd that was a good bit bigger and most likely a good bit noisier than normal.
She didn't seem to disappoint many of them in a 40-minute acceptance speech that provoked laughter, cheers, whistles and loud applause. It also attracted three or four television crews to the pub, including one from Japan.
From McGinley's in downtown Anchorage to Tailgaters Sports Bar in Wasilla, Alaskans collected to watch their popular governor whip up on the Democratic presidential ticket and get back a little at the media. Streets in Palmer were unusually quiet during and just after the speech, and about half the TVs at the Alaska Club West were tuned to the speech.
Not everyone in McGinley's was a Palin supporter. One table was filled with tourists from Florida and Wisconsin, whose knowledge of Palin, like that of most Americans, was about a week old: small town mayor, first-term governor, mother of five. The group was not quite sure what kind of vice president she'd make, especially as second-in-command to 72-year-old John McCain.
Lori Goraczewski of Jacksonville said she doesn't know if she'll vote for the McCain/Palin ticket, but that she was impressed because most Alaskans she's talked to seem to have a high regard for the governor.
"They seem to respect her and the work she's done for Alaska," Goraczewski said. "That speaks volumes to me as a Floridian," added her husband, Jim.
Four or five people said they came in mostly because they don't have televisions at home. Julia Meier said she came to hear the speech, not because she's a McCain/Palin supporter.
Tailgaters was packed to capacity and then some 15 minutes before the speech. And not just with Valley residents. News crews from CNN, Time, People, El Mondo from Spain, NBC, CBS, L'Ex Press from Paris, London Times, London Telegraph, Entertainment Tonight, the New York Times and Germany's Stern Magazine meant you were as likely to find a microphone in front of you as a beer.
"It's going to be so amazing," said Janette Badger, who sat at a table with her 20-something friends at the bar. "She's our girl."
"I hope she gets so famous, she puts a sticker on her car that says 'Valley Trash' and puts it in Ben Stevens' face," added Kelly Berg.
When Palin took the stage, Tailgaters erupted in cheers, fist pumps and yells: "Go Sarah!" The crowd booed when Palin suggested the national press has dissed Wasilla, and laughed when she dissed the Democrats candidate for president, Barack Obama.
Afterwards, only one person admitted disappointment.
"She didn't really cover the energy policy," said Teresa Blume. "She came out as the attack dog for the Republican Party instead of using Alaska as the energy leader for the nation."
At the Alaska Club, a woman soaked in sweat stared straight ahead, oblivious to the governor's speech as she pounded on a treadmill, while the man next to her bent over a Stairmaster, studying his progress on the digital screen. Dozens of other exercisers listened to Palin through their headphones, smiling at images of Piper -- nodding or frowning at the governor's words.
SaraEllen Hutchison took off her headphones.
"What I want to know is what about the other bridge to nowhere -- the one she hasn't said no to," Hutchison said as she jogged. She works for the Alaska Center for the Environment and wants Palin to put an end to plans for a Knik Arm bridge.
In the gym's lobby, Nataline Bellamy watched the speech with her 3-year-old son in her lap. Bellamy and her husband both work -- balancing the kids and job and these workouts, she said.
She didn't want to miss a minute of Palin's talk by driving home. She watched as Palin introduced her family.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of ... you're not hiding," Bellamy said, as if she was talking to Palin. It was as if the governor was saying, "This is who I am. This is my family," Bellamy said.
Moments later, Frank Box, a former welder in a tank top, walked by the front desk. "She did OK, but she's not one that ever lets the facts get in her way," he said.
Box has met Walt Monegan, the former public safety commissioner Palin fired in July. Monegan seemed like a good guy who got a raw deal, said Box, holding a towel.
At a sparsely attended Moose Lodge in Palmer, Patricia Behlke scoffed at critics who worry that Palin can't be vice-president and do a good job as a mom at the same time.
"I had both my kids and worked and went to night school," said Behlke, 64. "It ticked me off when they said she couldn't have children and run at the same time ...
"We'll shake their booty upside down," she said. "I don't think they're ready for an honest person in Washington."
Back at McGinley's, Barbara Rowland of Anchorage pulled on a McCain/Palin T-shirt and showed it off for the cameras.
"She's a fine speaker and she did us proud," Rowland said. "She represented Alaska's interests well."