STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Back to this country now, where Sarah Palin will deliver her speech at the Republican National Convention tonight. So far, the Republican vice-presidential candidate has been the subject of news stories about her pregnant teenage daughter and an ethics investigation and more.
Tonight, she tells her own story. NPR's Tovia Smith spoke with some skeptical voters about what they're thinking so far.
TOVIA SMITH: John McCain may have been hoping his vice-presidential pick would get people talking, but he probably didn't have this in mind.
Ms. TAMMY DUPREE: My first impression was: huh?
SMITH: Forty-one-year-old Tammy Dupree is just the kind of voter McCain was hoping to impress. She's a registered independent in the live-free-or-die state of New Hampshire, where voters feel a kind of kindred spirit with the maverick McCain. But Dupree is one of many in this swing state now wondering if McCain's decision that was meant to be bold and daring was actually more rash and irresponsible.
Ms. DUPREE: I have to say I was a little puzzled by his pick just because I thought he'd go for a stronger candidate. Now I don't think he stands a chance.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SMITH: Indeed, the Palin pick is turning out to be a very complicated and loaded calculation for many voters. Everything about her, and everything she says that's supposed to draw voters in, seems to be cutting both ways.
Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): It turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.
SMITH: Even the notion of a woman on the ticket, while appealing to some undecided women and disappointed Hillary fans, is striking many other women as offensive.
Ms. MILLIE WILKES(ph): To say there is no other qualified woman in the Senate or the House, it's kind of not too bright on his part, I think.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MONTAGNE: Seventy-two-year-old Millie Wilkes on her way to grocery shop in the Republican-leaning town of Derry, New Hampshire, says she used to, quote, love everything about McCain. Now, she says, she finds his VP pick insulting. As she puts it, just because she voted to put a woman in the White House doesn't mean she wants to see any woman in the White House.
Ms. WILKES: I'm very intelligent, and I voted for Hillary because she was intelligent, she knew the ropes in Washington; but Sarah doesn't have any experience at all. She doesn't even know what Washington is all about. And having Sarah a heartbeat away, you know, I think it's a stupid choice.
MONTAGNE: The Palin pick was also meant to shore up McCain's conservative base, and many so-called values voters say they do feel more comfortable voting Republican, given Palin's strong anti-abortion stance, for example. But those social conservatives are often the same voters concerned about Palin being a mother of five while also being vice president. Again, mother of three Tammy Dupree.
Ms. DUPREE: I just think that if you're going to bring kids into the world, you should raise them yourselves, not have someone else raise them.
MONTAGNE: Initial polls suggest women, especially, tend to be down on Palin. Democratic pollster Salinda Lake says the McCain camp may have underestimated how hard it still is to sell voters on the notion of a woman qualified to be president.
Ms. SALINDA LAKE (Democratic Pollster): So it was an audacious choice to begin with, but I think John McCain had no idea how really audacious it was at the time.
MONTAGNE: But the McCain campaign staunchly defends the Palin pick. Officials call accusations of her inexperience sexist. Nancy Bardsley Valbona(ph), a 42-year-old registered Republican, says she agrees Palin is getting a bum rap.
Ms. NANCY BARDSLEY VALBONA (Republican Voter, New Hampshire): She's got just as much experience, if not more, than Obama. So as far as I'm concerned, that's who I'm voting for - is McCain.
MONTAGNE: And as for the issue of Palin's daughter's pregnancy, Republican Mary Lou DiLorenzo(ph), a 51-year-old mother of two teenagers, says personal matters like that shouldn't matter at all.
Ms. MARY LOU DiLORENZO: Everybody has problems with teenagers, and if they tell you they don't, they're lying. So, I mean, to me that's almost a plus to her because she's relating to what it's like to raise kids in this generation, and what's going on.
MONTAGNE: It's exactly how the McCain camp is spinning the news and tonight, getting voters to relate to Sarah Palin will be just one of the candidate's challenges as she makes the speech of her life. Tovia Smith, NPR News.
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