S.C. Senator, Female Delegates Upbeat About Palin

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The selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is thought to have bolstered John McCain's conservative credibility, particularly among women. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and a group of his state's female delegates at the Republican National Convention say McCain's running mate will help the party.


McCain's vice presidential selection seem tailored for the social conservatives who mean so much to the Republican Party. The party faithful include South Carolina delegates who turned up at a party given one of their state senators. NPR's Linda Wertheimer was there.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Milk and cookies with Lindsey Graham, a late-night treat for South Carolinians, although there were beverages of a non-dairy sort also served.

Unidentified Man: Which kinds do you have?

Unidentified Woman: Johnny Walker Red.

WERTHEIMER: Senator Graham said in an interview that the Palin pick has inspired enthusiasm that's not been seen since McCain's campaign began. And it was a choice the party needed.

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): There's a headwind we're running into, and we're matching, you know, Senator Obama's historic candidate, first African-American candidate to be nominated by a major party with a very good chance of being president. Now we have, from a Republican point of view, the first female vice presidential nominee with a very good chance of being vice president.

WERTHEIMER: Republicans have been on the run, according to Graham, since major losses in the 2006 midterm elections. He hopes Sarah Palin will help.

Sen. GRAHAM: Republicans are a bit in denial. We got fired, for lack of a better word. We're coming from a party in retreat, and John McCain is the only Republican I think could win. The way he's conducted himself for 24 years of being different is going to pay off. And he's picked the absolute best running mate for what he wants to do, and that's somebody that has taken a good ole boy system and shaken it to its foundation.

WERTHEIMER: So what about the women on South Carolina? Most of the delegates are GOP officials, chairs of committees, party activists. Cindy Costa is a member of the Republicans National Committee. She says Palin will pep up the voters.

Ms. CINDY COSTA (Member, Republican National Committee): She or someone like her was very necessary for the ticket because people might go vote, but they might not go out and talk all about the ticket to friends and neighbors and coworkers and things.

WERTHEIMER: The choice was tremendously exciting to Lin Bennett. She's a county chair from Charleston. She and a group of friends were driving to St. Paul when they heard.

Ms. LIN BENNETT (County Chair, Charleston, South Carolina): I mean, there was no way to explain what we felt like. We were clapping in the car. We were whooping and a hollering. We're proud of it. I guess we're going to break historical barriers all around in this election.

WERTHEIMER: This group is totally upbeat, even about the teenaged pregnancy in the Palin family. Sue Swanson is from North Augusta on the Georgia border. She works with troubled young women.

Ms. SUE SWANSON (Youth Counselor): I think that just shows that real people have problems. That could be the next-door neighbor's daughter. She's a person that, like all people in America, have ups and downs.

WERTHEIMER: Maryanne Riley(ph) is from Spartanburg. I asked her about the party's position on abstinence.

Ms. MARYANNE RILEY: This was one of the first things I thought about, too, is here we are talking about family values and abstinence and all this, but kids are going to be kids no matter what. Once you're out of sight or in love, you're going to do all these things. And so this is just the times right now. In fact, probably more people can identify with her than not.

WERTHEIMER: Ms. Riley has been to five Republican conventions and says this one is different. There's a lot of uncertainty at this convention, she says. Still, like the other delegates, Maryanne Riley is flying her colors. She has a different red, white and blue hat for each night of the convention. In fact, she almost always wears the colors of the flag.

Ms. RILEY: My closet looks like red, white and blue most of the time. Gee, I should wear something different, but I go and I pick out something red, white and blue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Milk and cookies and politics with the South Carolina delegation.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, St. Paul.

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