3:38 PM, Sep 10, 2008 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Palin is having an impact. I saw it myself at the McCain-Palin rally held earlier today at Van Dyke Park in Fairfax County, Va. My sense is that the crowd was substantially larger than it would have been had McCain showed up there with a running mate who is not Sar-ah. I break her name down into its two syllables because that's how the crowd called out to her-and it did that a lot. At one point the whole thing became a bit comic as McCain, standing in front of the microphone, the crowd caught up in Sar-ah-ing Sarah, found himself clapping his hands in that awkward way he does, effectively leading the cheers for his running mate. You'd have thought she was the one running for president. Anyway, here are some of the people at today's rally who really like Sar-ah:
--Patrick and Barbara Murphy, parents of six children between the ages of 4 and 15. The youngest, Josh, has Down syndrome. The Murphys are pro-life and usually vote Republican. Patrick told me he was leaning toward McCain when the Senator picked Palin, whom he knew little about save for the fact she had a large family and a boy with Down syndrome-he'd read that in an article earlier this year. Murphy was amazed at the choice of Palin. "Here's a woman who's a governor with a family like ours," he said. The Murphys, who arrived at the park with Josh in his stroller, are no longer leaning Republican; they are solidly behind McCain-Palin.
--A middle-aged woman clad in red (as were many in the crowd). She told me she had voted in the Democratic primary for Hillary. She said she didn't trust Obama and probably would have wound up supporting McCain. But the choice of Palin brought her over to McCain more quickly. "I like her grit," she told me.
--A middle-aged man also clad in red. This guy is a committed Republican and always has been. He likes McCain. He made his own sign for the rally: "Drill Baby Drill" and he waived it wildly when McCain talked about drilling for more oil. The presence of Sarah on the ticket seems to have made him only a red-der Republican, if that's possible. "She's a conservative," he said. "There's no [unprintable, but starts with "bull"] in what she says. You know where she stands."