Wisconsin Town Reflects On Palin

The town of Bloomer, Wis., responds to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech Wednesday and her selection as Republican John McCain's running mate. The town had sounded off on Democrat Barack Obama before the state's primary in February.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Back during the primary season, NPR's Linda Wertheimer paid a visit to Bloomer, Wisconsin, to talk to voters. Bloomer's about 90 miles northeast of St. Paul.

Linda went back there this morning. She stopped at the Main Street Cafe, a good place for a piece of pie and a range of political opinions. especially opinions about the newest edition to the contest, Sarah Palin.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: The earliest arrivals at the Main Street Cafe are the women who work in the pie kitchen, turning out hundreds of pies a day to be shipped around Wisconsin.

Ms. JENNY REISHEL(ph) (Pie Baker): We've got two restaurants we've got to make pies for. (Unintelligible) lemon meringue, strawberry rhubarb, sour cream raisin custard, Dutch and caramel apple.

WERTHEIMER: Sounds good, doesn't it? That's Jenny Reishel, one of the bakers in the special pie kitchen at the back of the Main Street Cafe. Sarah Palin has not made an impression on Jenny. She's still sorry Hillary Clinton isn't running.

Ms. REISHEL: I think if Clinton would've got it, she would've been my vote. Her being a woman and her ideas, I think she would have done very well.

WERTHEIMER: Jenny Reishel gets up way too early to listen to convention speeches. Out in the cafe, the regulars begin to arrive along with the sunrise, including the ever-shifting group of euchre players in a corner booth.

Unidentified Man #1: I'm going go to pass.

Unidentified Man #2: I'm going to pick it up.

WERTHEIMER: Kevin Harings(ph) played a few hands of euchre this morning and then told us that Sarah Palin pulled him back from a vote for the Democrats. She changed his attitude toward John McCain.

Mr. KEVIN HARINGS (Euchre Player): As soon as I found that he was - who he picked for his running mate, I said, okay, I see - I thought he was just forward and set in his ways, but because he picked a woman, I thought he's going to have a good chance of winning now.

WERTHEIMER: So Sarah Palin does make a difference in your vote?

Mr. KEVIN HARINGS: Oh yeah, you know, because it showed his other side, that he's open-minded.

WERTHEIMER: Kevin's brother, Jeff Harings, is sticking with the Democrats. He thinks the country needs a change and that that Sarah Palin is a mistake.

Mr. JEFF HARINGS: The young candidate on the Republican side and the old candidate on the Republican side has got me worried right now.

WERTHEIMER: It's McCain's age that's getting you on the Obama side?

Mr. JEFF HARINGS: Yes, and if he gets sick or something like that, if she turns into the president, not enough experience.

WERTHEIMER: Most of the people in the Main Street Cafe, though, enjoyed Sarah Palin's speech. Dan Rosenbrook(ph) works on computers. He's had some concerns about voting for Republicans again after the last four years, but Palin may have persuaded him. He thought she was feisty.

Mr. DAN ROSENBROOK: I know I didn't like the way the media attacked her, but I liked the way she attacked the media last night. I think she can hold her own. I think she can do all right.

WERTHEIMER: Paul Michael(ph) works on farm machinery. He too didn't much like the last four years. He liked Palin, but she didn't win him over.

Mr. PAUL MICHAEL: She's energetic. She's a breath of fresh air. What she has for substance I'm not sure of yet, but Joe Biden brings some substance, I think, to that.

WERTHEIMER: In addition to the men in the pine-paneled booths in the front of the cafe, a dozen or so women gather in the dining room after 7:30 mass. Dolores Zurich(ph) wants a woman in the White House, but she has another concern.

Ms. DOLORES ZURICH: I probably shouldn't say this, but on the news they talk about her, you know, having her Down syndrome baby, which is a beautiful, beautiful baby, and I have nothing against that, but by taking this job now, is she running away from her responsibility toward this Down syndrome? Because she said she wasn't sure how she could handle it when it was born.

WERTHEIMER: Zurich is a babysitter-in-waiting. Her granddaughter is about to have triplets. Her friend Marilyn Day(ph), a retired businesswoman, is leaning toward McCain, and she really liked Palin.

Ms. MARILYN DAY: I just liked her. I just, I clapped all by myself last night when I listened to her. I thought she did a good job. Whether she's a woman with kids or not, that shouldn't make any difference.

WERTHEIMER: The Main Street Cafe in Bloomer, Wisconsin. Palin does not appeared to have changed many minds, but there's no denying she's put some pep in the race. Linda Wertheimer, NPR News.

BLOCK: You can hear NPR's live coverage of the Republican National Convention on many public radio stations and at NPR.org. At our Web site you can also find analysis, profiles and political blogs, and a big thank you to American Public Media for hosting our team in St. Paul.

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