GOP Sees Sarah Palin as Mrs. Anybody USA

Republicans love Sarah Palin's middle-class symbolism—and her defense of Alaska.

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GOP running mate Sarah Palin, Alaska's governor, screams middle class so much that even some Republicans who initially questioned Sen. John McCain's pick are now rewarding the ticket with a thumbs up. "She is so middle class in where she comes from and what she does that it's turning out to be a perfect fit for McCain," a high-up House GOP official tells me. "People get that she's one of them, and that's a big deal," adds the official. Even those McCain passed up think she's the cat's meow. A source close to Rep. Eric Cantor, the architect of the Republican alternative to President Bush's $700 billion Wall Street bailout, tells me that the Virginian is "totally on board" the Palin express and believes she can attract middle-class independents seeking a candidate who looks like them. You might recall that Cantor had his own site promoting his very long-shot vice presidential bid.

Meanwhile, you might have noticed many pundits and bloggers poking fun at Palin for suggesting that Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her an unusual foreign-policy outlook. Well she's not the first to claim that. Way back in the late 1980s, when I was an editor of Defense Week, then a leading trade publication famous for revealing weapon cost overruns and failures, I took up Sen. Ted Stevens on an offer to spend two weeks looking at the state's needs to defend itself against the Soviet Union. At the time, he was bidding to boost defense spending in the state and declared that—all jokes aside—Alaska was America's first line of defense. It was quite a trip, spent in Alaska Air National Guard helicopters, jets, and refueling tankers. And we even visited a village where the locals told of Russians landing in military craft and leaving behind Russian goods like batteries and aerosol cans during spying missions. I recall printing pictures of the goods in Defense Week. Was there a threat of attack? Naw, since Alaska is so big and far from the lower 48. Any attackers would probably fly over, or totally avoid, Alaska, it seemed at the time. But for those who lived there then—and apparently now—the threat is real enough and the reason why the state has a number of military installations. And lower 48 snickering seems only to embolden the locals more about their position in U.S. military defense.