WASILLA, Alaska-The crowd packed inside Tailgaters Bar and Grill in this small hometown of Sarah Palin erupted throughout the GOP vice presidential nominee's rousing speech Wednesday night. Though 2,500 miles away from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., the local Wasillans displayed deep connection to their favorite hockey mom.
Donning shirts with the words "Go Sarah" printed across the back, the horde of friends and neighbors cheered applause lines and guffawed at the sharp witticisms lobbed toward Democrat opponent Barack Obama. At the speech's conclusion, the crowd set aside handfuls of chicken wings and french fries for a standing ovation.
But not everyone in the room stood. Amid the commotion, Janet St. George sat noticeably still. The 54-year-old art gallery owner leans Democrat and holds strong disagreements with Palin on most political issues. St. George delivered no claps. She appeared unmoved.
"You can't help but really admire her," St. George said, admitting deep respect for Palin despite differing political commitments. "I think people in this community, even though they like her and admire her, maybe were a little worried about how she was going to present herself on this big national stage. She proved she's worthy of it. She definitely holds her own."
That kind of cross-party appeal is nothing new for the Alaska governor, who holds 80-percent approval ratings in the Land of the Midnight Sun. The combination of feisty energy and femininity that Palin displayed in her speech accounts for much of that bipartisan support. Her delivery of razor-sharp attacks couched in the sweet smile of a beauty queen somehow seemed void of malice or anger.
Palin captured the spirit of that charm in one of her many punch lines of the night: "You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
The joke, like the speech, was all Palin.
"That sounded just like Sarah," St. George said. "It sounded like it came straight from her heart, and it sounds just like she always sounds. I don't think they messed around with her speech too much. It sounded just like Sarah."