Sunday, June 8, 2008

Palin-Clinton: The Battle Begins

Sarah Palin, a builder in more ways than one.

Gov. Sarah Heath Palin welcomes home Alaska troops who fought in Iraq. Gov. Palin's 18-year-old son Track is an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers her concession speech on Saturday in DC.

"Sarah Palin is no ordinary mortal."

"We may be seeing the emergence of someone [Sarah] who's Mt. Rushmore material."

As the world rightly focuses on the McCain-Obama contest, a battle is shaping up behind the scene -- one that pits two powerful women -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gov. Sarah Heath Palin -- against one another. Why is Sarah Palin the woman the Democrats fear most? I'll try to answer that today (Sunday). If you scan through the previous columns, you'll find comments on both women.

Sarah Palin may very well be John McCain's choice for V-P on the Republican ticket. Barack Obama apparently doesn't want Hillary to be his V-P choice, but for purely political reasons he may choose her anyway.

Why do the Democrats fear the presence of Sarah Palin on the Republican ticket? In part, it's her legendary toughness (they don't call her "Sarah Barracuda" for no reason). But her main strength is her strong appeal to critical groups of voters. Consider:

Married women: Sarah's marriage to Todd Palin gives every evidence of being a model relationship. Sarah and Todd were childhood sweethearts, and they eloped shortly after she graduated from high school. As with so many issues, the Palins take no "stand" that is in any way at variance with the way they conduct their lives.

Young people: Sarah is only 44, and she exude youthfulness and energy. She has children ranging in age from 18 (son Track) to a few weeks (son Trig).

Military families: Sarah and Todd are a military family. Their son Track enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry on September 11, 2007. It's extremely likely he will see combat duty in either Afghanistan or Iraq, or both.

Families with children: The Palins have five children, three of them teenagers, as well as daughter Piper, age 7, and baby Trig (a Norwegian name).

Reagan Democrats: Palin has the highest approval ratings of any major elected official in the U.S. -- in the 90% range. That means she's gained approval from the vast majority of Democrats.

Women professionals (journalists, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and businesswomen): Sarah is the consummate female professional, having served as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and as governor of the state. Her college degree is in journalism. Her parents both served as public school teachers.

Working families: Sarah's husband, Todd, has labored his entire adult life as a commercial fisherman and an oil field production worker. The couple's links to working families go far beyond the usual political rhetoric.

Gun owners: Sarah is an avid hunter and a life-member of the National Rifle Association.

Pro-Life social conservatives: When Sarah found out that her unborn son, Trig, had Down Syndrome, she and her husband elected to have the child. Her point was that God has a purpose for every human being. When Trig was born, the Palins' press release began with thse word, "God has blessed us . . . ." The fascinating point was that they meant every word of it.

Evangelical Christians: Sarah is an evangelical Christian. However, she doesn't wear her religious faith on her sleeve. She is not anti-gay and does not scapegoat people who disagree with her.

People concerned about energy and the environment: As governor of Alaska, Sarah is among the best-informed elected officials on both issues. She's head of the energy committee at the Republican Governors Association and is a strong advocate of level-headed conservation of natural resources.

Overall, there's no other Republican that brings more to the table than Sarah Palin. She has exceptionally wide appeal. She would help John McCain with many groups with which he's currently weak (including young people and women professionals).

Of supreme importance: Sarah could be particularly helpful in battleground states with large numbers of working class voters, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, and Michigan. I've suggested that McCain should "park" Sarah in those five states until Election Day. If Republicans win just three of those states, John McCain will be President-elect.

In 2012 (if Obama wins this year or if McCain elects to serve just one term) or 2016, the presidential face-off could pit Sarah Palin against Hillary Clinton. One imagines that it would be a battle royal.

Note: I hope everyone will visit my Hillary Supporters for McCain column. Today, it contains a guest column by a Black woman from North Carolina -- a Hillary supporter -- who is now strongly backing McCain.

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