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John McCain's running mate has been traveling alongside him. And elsewhere in today's program we hear Sarah Palin's answer when invited to explain her foreign policy experience. Right now, we'll listen to the way that Palin looks to women. Democrats tend to get more votes from women than Republicans who hope Palin can change that in 2008. NPR's Ina Jaffe went to the battleground state of Missouri to talk to women and see what effect the governor of Alaska is having on their choice.
INA JAFFE: After the Republican convention, one of the first places that John McCain and Sarah Palin campaigned together was Lee's Summit, Missouri. The Kansas City suburb leans Republican, and as many as 4,000 people showed up at the rally. But none of the women at this meeting of the Lee's Summit chapter of MOMS were there. Their organization supports women who've chosen to stay home and raise their children. So stand in line for hours with toddlers to get into a political rally? No way. But follow the campaign and have strong opinions, absolutely. Sherrie Moore(ph), an evangelical Christian, was at the meeting with her one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
SHERRIE MOORE: Palin was actually what put me over the edge.
JAFFE: And pushed her firmly into the Obama camp.
MOORE: She's never met a foreign head of state. She's been caught time and time again in a mistruth. She just scares me, you know. I'm one of those people that should be a Palin supporter, but I want a strong leader in the White House, not just because she goes to a church or because she happens to be a female.
JAFFE: Sarah Palin was a decisive factor in a very different way for Cathleen Eggers(ph) who used to be more anti-Obama than pro-John McCain.
CATHLEEN EGGERS: Palin just seemed to breathe new life into the Republican Party for me. She just made me a lot more interested in what's going on.
JAFFE: Eggers and Moore were among half a dozen moms who volunteered to talk politics. Each of them said the economy was a concern. Most said the war was too. Yet they were evenly split, three for Obama and three for McCain. There was quite a bit of child care going on as we talked. It made Gretchen Doyle(ph), Obama supporter and mother of two, wonder how Palin could manage the vice presidency with her five children.
GRETCHEN DOYLE: I know that I could not be vice president. And I'm not saying that you can't have kids and be the vice president, but she has responsibilities. And I mean her youngest is - is he just over a year or under a year? And he has Down syndrome. And I just question her judgment.
JAFFE: The McCain campaign has called such concerns sexist. McCain supporter and mother of three Tracy McGill(ph) said that male candidates are never questioned about their ability to raise children while holding office, so why Sarah Palin?
TRACY MCGILL: There are more and more stay-at-home dads. I think her husband is a big support to her. I think she's got a big challenge ahead of her, but I think it can be done.
JAFFE: Meanwhile, in strongly Democratic Kansas City, it wasn't Palin's children but her qualifications that worried five University of Missouri women. Jimoke Bologan(ph) is 20 years old, African-American, and an Obama supporter.
JIMOKE BOLOGAN: And I kind of think that the Republicans are using her as kind of, hey, look, we have a woman too. And that's so devastating to me, because I want to see a woman in office, but I want to see a qualified woman in office.
JAFFE: Bologan was in a lounge at the campus women's center where center Director Brenda Bethman had a more cynical take on the issue of Palin's qualifications.
BRENDA BETHMAN: I actually think it's progress when unqualified women get chosen, since unqualified men have been chosen for years. So, why not?
JAFFE: Bethman was one of a couple of Hillary Clinton supporters here. Another one, English Professor Virginia Blanton, was angered over the sexist stereotypes aimed at Hillary Clinton, and now is just as disgusted at the way that Sarah Palin's being portrayed.
VIRGINIA BLANTON: Within a week of her speech at the Republican National Convention, there was the action figure doll brought out about her. And it's got this cutaway black leather, you know, sort of trench coat with short shorts, and she's really muscular and ready to kick people's hynies(ph).
JAFFE: But regardless, none of these women were so sympathetic that they were actually going to vote for Sarah Palin and John McCain. Brenda Bethman is still so distressed about the way Hillary Clinton was treated, she isn't sure she'll vote at all.
BETHMAN: I'm disenchanted with the whole process, and so there are days when I'm like, I'm just going to stay home because I can't vote for any of them with a clean conscience.
JAFFE: A day like that would be a good for John McCain, helping him narrow the gender gap in this battleground state, if only by a single vote. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Kansas City, Missouri.
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