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Former Pennyslvania Sen. Rick Santorum says he has newfound enthusiasm for the GOP ticket because of Sarah Palin.
Former Pennyslvania Sen. Rick Santorum says he has newfound enthusiasm for the GOP ticket because of Sarah Palin. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Gary Knapp/Getty Images
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas says McCain's pick of Palin as his running mate has been a "big hit."
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas says McCain's pick of Palin as his running mate has been a "big hit." Gary Knapp/Getty Images
One problem John McCain faced going into the Republican National Convention was the mistrust of social conservatives. In the GOP, they're an important constituency — people who will knock on doors and stuff envelopes to elect a like-minded candidate. Many doubted that McCain fit the bill, but his pick for a running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, did. And despite news that her teenage daughter is pregnant, social activists among the GOP are not worried.
Rick Santorum, the conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, was swept out of the U.S. Senate two years ago. In the spring, he backed Mitt Romney for the party's presidential nominee. Now, in St Paul, he has newfound enthusiasm for the GOP ticket.
"I was scheduled to be here. I was a delegate. I was coming, and I was going to be supporting John McCain," he tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "But I do so with a little more lilt in my step" because of Palin.
Unlike McCain, she is a kindred spirit — strongly anti-abortion. Though she lacks experience with national and global issues, Santorum says, she'll get that experience as vice president.
"You have an opportunity during the time that you're vice president to learn a heck of a lot. No, she probably doesn't know who the president of Turkmenistan is, but she doesn't need to know that right now," he says. "She will learn ... with a firehose attached to her mouth. I mean, it's gonna be pretty tough."
For Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a man who attends both Protestant and Catholic churches, it's the same story.
"I had people coming up to me at church yesterday who haven't been excited for four years who are excited, pumped," he says. "So it seems like to me it's a big gamble in the sense that OK, what all may come out ... but the initial play is this has been a big hit."
The Palin Effect
If the Palin effect works, it could help McCain win states like Colorado, where the polls are close and conservative evangelicals are well-represented.
Kathleen LeCrone, a delegate from Centennial, Colo., has responded to the Palin nomination just as the McCain campaign would have hoped.
"She brings a lot of energy. She brings, obviously, the female perspective, mother perspective," LeCrone tells Siegel. "But also she's very good on energy policy. I just think she brings a lot to the ticket."
Colorado party Chairman Dick Wadhams is a big Palin booster. On Monday, he said Palin has more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket.
On Tuesday, his enthusiasm was undimmed, her daughter's pregnancy notwithstanding.
"I think the vast majority of Americans are going to appreciate how Gov. Palin and her husband are handling the situation. It's entirely consistent with what their public beliefs are," he said. "And I think the American people are going to be very supportive of her."
Wadhams says he's far more concerned about Joe Biden, Democrat Barack Obama's running mate, "who plagiarized, who made a disparaging remark about Indian-Americans owning convenience stores. I would much rather have Gov. Palin than somebody like Joe Biden."
Summer Vanderbilt is the youngest member of the Colorado delegation. The 21-year-old college student from Colorado Springs, a center of Christian conservative activism, says Palin's pregnant teenage daughter is making "a pro-life statement."
"It's a very interesting turn of events," she says, laughing. "Look, we have a very exciting party. We have a very exciting time. We've got a hurricane. We've got a baby. ... We're just having fun with all the different turns and we just don't know what's happening next."