Fresh from convention, Palin finds fans

STRATEGY: Send her to Wasilla-like towns, consultants suggest.

September 6, 2008 

WASHINGTON -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin began the shoe leather campaign for the vice presidency Friday, hitting the campaign trail in Wisconsin and Michigan with fresh with energy from the get-to-know-me speech that wowed convention-goers and millions of Americans.

She'll be with Sen. John McCain today in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Albuquerque, N.M., and then potentially head home for a few days to see her oldest son deploy to Iraq before she hits the campaign trail in earnest. The rest of her family is expected to accompany her on the trail throughout the campaign.

In her first of several campaign appearances Friday in the Midwest, Palin stuck to the same talking points that surfaced in her speech Wednesday night -- including the line about putting the Alaska state plane up for sale on eBay. The McCain campaign has been tight-lipped about where she'll go and when, saying only that they expect her to appeal to "voters across the spectrum," said campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella.

But GOP pollsters and advisers unconnected to the campaign have a few suggestions on where they think she should campaign for McCain.

Palin would be put to best use in small towns across America just like the one in Alaska she led as mayor, said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who was among the first to spot Palin earlier this year as a potential VP pick. Conway suggested she go to towns just like Wasilla in Michigan, Hew Hampshire, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada. She should consider campaigning in the Pacific Northwest, too, Conway said.

"People will want to come and hear her in their own hometowns," Conway said. "I wouldn't narrow her demographic reach whatsoever. I would think of her more in terms of geography than demography. The novelty and curiosity factors alone are enough to draw a crowd of diverse people."

Palin also needs to reach out to working-class swing voters, said Dan Schnur, a former aide to McCain in the 2000 campaign who now directs the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

"They need to send her to talk to all the 'bitter people,'" Schnur said, referring to Sen. Barack Obama's comments at a San Francisco fundraiser this spring in which he said that some white working-class voters "cling to guns or religion."

"Just by virtue of her personal biography, she's in a much better position to push back on that front than most leading Republicans," including McCain, Schnur said.

Democrats have taken note of her appeal and have deployed women who they think will be powerful advocates for the Barack Obama campaign.

They've sent Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. to campaign in Florida, where she is a popular figure, and they have other high-profile Democratic women such as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius ready to spread what Obama said this week after Palin's speech: Palin may be a fresh face, but he believes her ideas represent "the same old message."

"Throughout the campaign we have had high profile women campaigning for Obama precisely because of his focus on the issues that women and family care about and we will continue to do so," said Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

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