No single, simple answer on how women see Palin
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HERSHEY, Pa. -- Elaine Slaboda is a longtime Democrat. She's also a supporter of strong, smart women.
That's why she's torn about how to vote in the presidential election.
Ms. Slaboda, 65, of Scranton, likes Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's policies, but thinks it's time for a woman in the White House. The Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, could be what the country needs, she said.
"I think we're due for a good woman in the White House. We are ready for it," said Ms. Slaboda, who supported New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Strategists and academics suspect there are plenty more women like her, and that Republican presidential candidate John McCain had them in mind when he picked Ms. Palin as his running mate.
"He made a wildcard choice with Gov. Palin. He rolled the dice and threw a Hail Mary pass, and it's amazing how that choice is bringing along Democrats who now say they're going to vote for McCain," said Charles W. Dunn, dean of the School of Government at Regent University in New York.
"Clinton supporters -- and women in particular -- thought it was Hillary's time, and they got turned out to pasture. Palin is bringing those people into the McCain fold."
Others, though, say it is naive and offensive to suggest that female Clinton supporters will vote Republican just because there is a woman on the ticket.
Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Palin are political opposites, said Emily Kimball, 77, a motivational speaker from Richmond, Va., in a telephone interview.
"McCain is pandering to women. He is thinking that women will follow women no matter what, which is really awfully underestimating the intelligence of women," she said. "Does he think women are so dumb they'll just stand for any woman? That's insulting."
If the addition of Ms. Palin to the ticket doesn't bring Clinton supporters to Mr. McCain's camp in droves, it could encourage undecided women voters to vote Republican.
It could, though, turn others away. Count Anna Mae McLaughlin among them.
"The White House is no place for a woman to be," the 53-year-old retired nurse said Wednesday during a shopping trip to the Outlets at Hershey. "I don't think a woman would have enough courage to stand up to foreign leaders."
Hillery Keller, a 36-year-old Lebanon County Republican, agreed.
"Women are emotional. If I were president, I'd be pushing the red button too much," said Mrs. Keller, a waitress and mother of six. "Women are much more emotionally involved, and that can be dangerous if you're leading the nation based on that."
Her mother, Candy Hilton, 54, also of Lebanon County, chimed in. An emotional response could be an advantage, she said.
"That's why [Ms. Palin] would make a good vice president; she would keep things in balance," said Ms. Hilton, who is a Democrat. "It's good to have a woman's perspective and a man's perspective."
That alone could be enough to sway her to the McCain camp.
"I'm not a McCain fan, but Palin is a woman and she is very family oriented," she said. "Before she was on the ticket, I would have supported Obama, but now I'll think about McCain."
Obama strategists appear to be keenly aware of voters like Ms. Hilton.
That's evident in a mailing that arrived in Pennsylvania mailboxes Tuesday saying that Mr. McCain is "out of touch with women's issues."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a similar point Wednesday as she stumped for Mr. Obama in southeast Pennsylvania, and strategists for his campaign carried that message to reporters.
"Pennsylvania voters are more sophisticated than to vote for someone just based on gender," said Andrea Mead, Mr. Obama's Pennsylvania press secretary. "This election isn't about gender. It's about the issues, and the McCain-Palin ticket is on the wrong side of women's issues."
Because of her opposition to abortion, Ms. Palin may appeal to Catholic Democrats who may have supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, Mr. Dunn said.
"Sen. Clinton is not pro-life, but she's not as far to the left on the abortion issue as Obama is. While retaining her pro-life credentials, she talked about how we can reduce the number of abortions," he said. "If we look at female Catholic Democrats, there's a constituency there for Gov. Palin. She can bring them into the McCain fold."
First Published September 5, 2008 12:34 am