Palin’s ‘Mr. Mom’ may be a se­cret cam­paign weapon

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY AN­DREA BILLUPS

He’s a mem­ber of the steelworkers union, a reg­is­tered in­de­pen­dent and has cham­pi­oned the need for vo­ca­tional — not Ivy League — ed­u­ca­tion in his home state.

He works the night shift in North Slope oil fields, fishes com­mer­cially in icy wa­ters and flies around snowy Alaska in a float­plane, all the while winning four cross-state snow­mo­bile cham­pi­onships.

At home, he hap­pily nav­i­gates be­tween hard­work­ing man’s man and hunky Mr. Mom to the five Palin chil­dren, comfortable in his role as rock-solid sup­port spouse to wife Sarah’s power ca­reer.

Now, with her his­toric nom­i­na­tion as Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, some are won­der­ing if Todd Palin might be the Repub­li­can Party’s key and yet un­tapped sur­ro­gate to reach­ing work­ing-class vot­ers, some put off by Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. Barack Obama.

“If I had a crys­tal ball a few years ago, I might have asked a few more ques­tions when Sarah de­cided to join the PTA,” Mr. Palin joked at a Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion event in St. Paul, Minn., ac­knowl­edg­ing how his own life was caught up in his wife’s po­lit­i­cal whirl­wind.

With his wife’s no­tor ious tenac­ity and com­pet­i­tive streak, “it’s best to get out of the way,” he said.

A few weeks af­ter his wife’s de­but as Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. John McCain’s No. 2, Mr. Palin’s col­or­ful back story and pub­lic pro­file are ris­ing, in­clud­ing an “Iron Dog Alaska Snow Ma­chine trail sign from 1998” catch­ing steam on eBay, said Karen Bard, the Web com­merce gi­ant’s pop-cul­ture ex­pert.

“His per­sona is rugged, and he’s a real moun­tain man. He’s very male,” Miss Bard says of the Todd Palin ap­peal.

The Palins’ seem­ingly tightknit “Brady Bunch” fam­ily with five chil­dren, in­clud­ing an in­fant, also con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate. As dad, Mr. Palin ap­pears mod­ern enough to han­dle his wife’s surg­ing na­tional pro­file yet able to iden­tify with work­ing-class men.

This voter de­mo­graphic was loyal to Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton in the Demo­cratic pri­maries, par­tic­u­larly in states such as West Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky.

Mr. Palin “might be just the man to make their case,” said Wil­fred McClay, a pro­fes­sor of hu­man­i­ties at the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee-Chat­tanooga, who rec­og­nizes Todd’s “au­then­tic” ap­peal.

“This guy is not a big-re­sume guy, and he’s not a wimp. He’s some­thing dif­fer­ent, al­most the kind of hus­band that a lot of women who have to work and be the bread­win­ner wish that they could have,” Mr. McClay said.

Mr. McClay says Mr. Palin’s work­ing-man cred­i­bil­ity and his wife’s boot­strap ap­proach to gov­ern­ing set them apart from the power-cou­pling that of­ten pre­dom­i­nates in Wash­ing­ton. They have chil­dren and jobs, and live full “hockey mom” lives, which seem far away from the world of po­lit­i­cal-minded Belt­way strivers.

“A part of why this is all work­ing is it’s ac­tu­ally real,” he said. “This is not a gim­mick.”

By con­trast, he says, the Palins’ seem­ing mid­dle-Amer­ica whole­some­ness may force some vot­ers, in­clud­ing union-types tra­di­tion­ally aligned with Democrats, to re­think the Obama rock-star im­age.

So­ci­ol­o­gist Veron­ica Tichenor, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the SUNY In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Utica, N.Y., said the Palins are not typ­i­cal in that even as a ca­reer woman, Sarah Palin has had five chil­dren and has not di­min­ished her role as mother, even as her pro­file has climbed.

“He’s been very suc­cess­ful in pre­sent­ing a very mas­cu­line side, and I think it will prob­a­bly al­low work­ing-class men to iden­tify with him and by ex­ten­sion, her,” Miss Tichenor said. “That’s a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.”

The Palins

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.