In Va., Palin Draws Mixed Reaction Among Women

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A woman in the crowd holds a sign as Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, campaign in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 10. Paul J. Richards/AFP hide caption

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Virginia voter holds sign supporting Sarah Palin

A woman in the crowd holds a sign as Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, campaign in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 10.

Paul J. Richards/AFP

Political Junkie

supporters of Sarah Palin i

Supporters listen as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attends a campaign rally in Anchorage, Alaska, on Sept. 13. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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supporters of Sarah Palin

Supporters listen as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attends a campaign rally in Anchorage, Alaska, on Sept. 13.

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Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attends a campaign event at Van Dyke Park in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 10. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attends a campaign event at Van Dyke Park in Fairfax, Va., on Sept. 10.

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Palin supporters in Ohio i

A girl and some women watch from a window as Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin greet the crowds at a campaign event in Lebanon, Ohio, on Sept. 9. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Palin supporters in Ohio

A girl and some women watch from a window as Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin greet the crowds at a campaign event in Lebanon, Ohio, on Sept. 9.

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Sarah Palin's dramatic effect on political attitudes is not limited to Alaska. She's given the whole country — and, in this case, female voters — a new way to think about the presidential election and women's place in it.

On a recent visit to the swing state of Virginia, female voters expressed both admiration and concern about Palin as a possible vice president. While some women said they admired her fresh approach, political ascent and ability to juggle her work and her family, others said they were worried about her level of experience and her ability to function as president if anything happened to Sen. John McCain.

"People are saying it's a maverick thing, but I think it's a risky thing," one young mother named Stephanie Elms said about McCain's selection of Palin. "The idea that he could pull something like that in foreign policy really, really worries me."

Virginia Women On Palin

NPR spoke with three groups of women in Prince William County: middle-aged women who take riding lessons; members of a mystery book club; and a group of young mothers, most of whom home-school their children.

One of the young mothers, Heather Melugin, originally jumped on the Palin bandwagon. Melugin, like Palin, has a special needs child and has been a working mom.

"So I was really excited about this until I saw her interview with Charlie Gibson," she said.

Palin was interviewed on ABC News last week. During the interview, Gibson asked Palin how she weighed the offer to be McCain's running mate. In response, Palin said that she accepted it instantly. It worried Melugin that Palin did not first consult her family.

But other female voters found that kind of candor refreshing. Undecided voter Peggy Smith is a riding instructor from Manassas.

"I think it's more that she doesn't come across so much as a lifetime, professional politician — that she started truly at a place where any woman could go out and start," she said.

And other women, like registered nurse Kay Finney, said that Palin's entry into politics should give women confidence.

"I like that she was in your face, and I like that she was straightforward. She says, 'I've been a mayor of a small town, and I've been the governor of Alaska, and that's it.' I think she's a breath of fresh air, and I'm excited that she's on the ticket," she said.

But all of the women agreed that as the economy worsens in the United States, the choice of vice presidential candidates seems less important.

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