ST. PAUL, Minn. — Excitement and enthusiasm were high at the Republican National Convention over Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.
“Pelosi and Hillary are women in politics, but in Sarah Palin we not only have a woman in politics, but she’s a Proverbs 31 woman,” said one delegate.
Proverbs 31:12 and following describe an ideal wife as one who fears the Lord and is “girt about with strength.”
Delegates couldn’t wait to be introduced to her and hear what she had to say. While critics have attacked her family and questioned her experience, those who know her said they admire her for her experience and judgment and say that she should appeal greatly to evangelical and Catholic voters nationwide.
In fact, Palin is a “cradle Catholic” who grew up in a Protestant environment.
“I was baptized Catholic as a newborn and then my family started going to non-denominational churches throughout our life,” she told Time magazine Aug. 14, eight days before McCain announced his choice of running mate.
Palin does not identify herself as a Pentecostal, but rather someone who attends a “Bible-believing church.”
Many news sources claimed that Palin was a current member of Juneau’s Church on the Rock, but that’s not the case.
“She’s been attending the Wasilla Bible Church,” said Debbie Joslin, an alternate delegate who serves as the Republican National Committee chairwoman from Alaska.
While the Register was unable to obtain a comment from the pastor of Wasilla Bible Church, Pastor David Pepper of Church on the Rock issued a statement.
“Before running for governor of Alaska she frequently attended Church on the Rock for approximately one year,” said Pepper. “Since that time she has visited on occasion and now attends Wasilla Bible Church with her family. Governor Palin is a wonderful Christian woman with outstanding leadership qualities.”
She drew significant attention from pro-life groups in April, when she gave birth to her fifth child, Trig. When she announced in March that she was seven months pregnant, she told reporters, “I’ve always been a believer that God’s not going to give us anything that we cannot handle,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Palin said she knew early on in the pregnancy that the baby boy had Down syndrome. At a time when more and more Down syndrome babies are aborted, Palin’s carrying the pregnancy to term was viewed by pro-lifers as a life-affirming act.
The 44-year-old governor issued a statement in late April saying the family knew through early testing that the baby would “face special challenges.
“We feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives,” she said. “We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed.”
She has been a member of Feminists for Life of America since 2006.
When Joslin’s son, Isaiah, who was born with Trisomy 13 nine years ago, died, Palin wrote the Joslins. “She sent a nice note,” said Joslin. “She told me she admired me.”
A Zogby Interactive poll showed that 54% of Catholics believed that McCain’s choice of Palin would help the Republican ticket.
“I am really energized by the selection of Palin,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. “She’s a real lady, a real believer — she believes it and lives it.”
“Palin is the poster child for the Susan B. Anthony List,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the political action committee created to support female, pro-life candidates. “She’s the whole package. There couldn’t be a better vice presidential pick.”
Those who know her best are avid supporters as well, especially those from her home state of Alaska, where she enjoys an approval rating over 80%.
“She’s got strong core values, and we really respect her for that,” said Ralph Seekins, a delegate from Fairbanks, Alaska. “She’s a hard worker, she’s very pro-life, and she listens to people.”
Fellow delegate Dick Stoffel said he was pleasantly shocked by her selection as vice-presidential candidate.
“She’s a real fine lady with good morals, conservative views and is pro-life,” said Stoffel. “During her 13 years in government, she’s been able to accomplish more good things than many other so-called experienced people.”
“She’s pro-life, pro-family, and believes in limited government,” said Steve Colligan, the Republican National Committee vice-chairman for Alaska. “She ticked off all of our legislators by making them come in to justify their projects before she would approve them.”
Many delegates admitted that John McCain wasn’t their first choice as candidate, but now that he’s selected Palin as his running mate they are excited about the ticket.
Rhode Island delegate Carol Nolan originally supported former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
“When McCain chose Palin, that was it,” said Nolan.
Tennessee delegate Christian Lanier was also originally a reluctant McCain supporter. An attorney, Lanier first supported former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and later Huckabee.
“Selecting Sarah Palin was the best thing McCain ever did,” said Lanier. “I like her from an economics and foreign policy standpoint. She’s a candidate that conservatives can be happy with.”
Mothers have also described their attraction to Palin as a candidate.
“She’s so easy to relate to,” said Lisa Correnti after hearing her speak at the Republican National Convention. “I love her.”
Correnti, a San Diego, Calif., mother of seven, serves as coordinator of the Catholic Working Group, which organized various Catholic outreach events during the convention.
“When I heard she was in the running, I got goose bumps,” said Gretchen Thibault of Shoreview, Minn., who, like Palin, has a child with Down syndrome. “When your life is so deeply touched by Down syndrome, you’re a different person. I can see that with her.”
Few supporters seemed fazed by the revelation of her teenage daughter Bristol’s pregnancy.
“The way she’ll handle it is by loving her daughter through this crisis,” said Stoffel. “The family has shown that they can handle a crisis well,” Stoffel said, alluding to the family’s decision to choose life for their son Trig.
“You can’t control what your teenager does,” said Lanier, who was happy that Bristol was choosing life.
“It shouldn’t have any impact on the campaign,” said Rosario Marin, a California delegate and former United States treasurer. “It’s a private matter. I think this young lady, like many across the U.S., is faced with a question of convenience, yet she’s doing what is best for the child. It’s an example that there are choices out there to be made, and she’s made the choice for the child. Talk about true choice.”
Tim Drake filed this story from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.