September 4th, 2008
12:22 AM ET
14 years ago

Gergen: Will Sarah Palin appeal in suburban America?


Palin wowed the RNC Wednesday, but how will she play in suburbia? (Photo credit: E.M. Pio Roda / CNN )

It is clear from tonight's national debut that Sarah Palin may connect extremely well in rural, small-town America. And no doubt, Republicans will be sending her there in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and the like. Her pit bull style, combined with her humor and presence along with her roots, will likely draw people to her. Lots of people there will look forward to hearing her in person.

The question for me is whether she will also appeal in suburban America. I am not at all certain that she will: her combative, anti-elitist style - along with her staunch conservatism on issues like abortion - may just leave a lot of voters cool if not cold.

The answer to that question could have a big bearing on the election. What do you think?

soundoff (1,169 Responses)
  1. Paul, Los Angeles

    Hey David. Thanks for bringing some sobriety to cable news, although I miss the News Hour days. I think tonight brings good and bad news to Democrats. The bad news is that Palin didn't fall on her face; not by a long shot. The good news is that the GOP seems to be trying to re-align this election along the same axis as '04. Part of the strategy then was to energize the party by painting the left and right as culturally irreconcilable, neutering any substantive policy discussion. It's been an effective strategy in the past, but in '08 it actually plays beautifully into the Obama campaign's message that Republicans don't know how to change, at a time when the American people are desperate for something new and different. I suspect that the suburban voters you're talking about will recognize retrograde, Rove-era thinking for what it is.

    I'd also add that the Obama campaign's decision not to participate in the public's "vetting" of Palin since last Friday shows that it remains several moves ahead of everybody else on the chessboard. In light of her strong performance tonight, the relentless attacks on Palin over the last few days seem small and undignified. As she becomes more of a stationary target, however, we're likely to see some truly focused ("grown-up"?) criticism from Obama. This may also play well in the suburbs.

    September 4, 2008 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  2. thomas m eaton

    hi just what i thought, small town ,small vision, small brain. all she said is what we have heard 4 8 years. no substance, all ugly name calling. thank you. thomas

    September 4, 2008 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  3. Kathleen Beymer

    S. Palin is running as a reformer. As vice-president, how can she initiate reform? What needs to be reformed is her own party and its leaders. Her devisive, sarcastic style surely doesn't inspire cooperation or reconciliation. She made me ashamed to hear her represent my sex.

    September 4, 2008 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  4. Independant voting Dem

    Country first??? Who's country?? All I heard tonight was divisive, nasty, hateful speeches that are beating the drums of war.

    September 4, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  5. Nicole A. - Indianapolis

    I had every intention to listen to Mrs. Palin speech with an open mind and without too much bias and prejudice. I was truly offended at her (and "The Country's mayor) tone and sarcasm regarding community organization. Since Palin doesn't know what a community organizer does (or a VP for that matter) let me shed some organizing is about working collectively with people to solve problems—joining or forming organizations to address issues that concern people in their neighborhood, workplace, or community of interest (eg., senior citizens, health care, housing, environment, education, economic development). Community organizers work with others to: improve the social conditions of a community, enhance the quality of life of people, and bring people into the political process. As someone who has worked with the communit it is a very, very, very difficult task and requires strong leadership abilities, decision-making skills, and a host of other qualities that a President should not only posses but be able to demonstrate.

    It was community organizers that created movements in this country...has Palin ever heard of the Civil Rights movement? It is because of community organizers that Palin even has the right to vote...the women's suffarage movement came from the community.

    September 4, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  6. Christina

    I was very unhappy with both Obama and McCain until the Palin VP announcement. I am a suburban mom and I am solidly behind the McCain Palin ticket.

    I find it quite amusing that the McCain campaign has somehow managed to get the Obama followers to start criticizing Palin for the same attributes that Obama has.

    September 4, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  7. TonyInKentucky

    She appeals to people that host RNC parties.

    September 4, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  8. Steve McGuire

    How can she not?
    Who can relate to a lawyer that won't salute the flag because it controversial?

    Who can relate to a lawyer who's wife is a lawyer?
    Who can relate to a career politician that wears $1000 suits?

    Who can relate to having a really rich wife? (In my dreams maybe)
    Who can relate to being a fighter pilot war hero?

    Now who can relate to a Soccer Mom that hunts and fishes and takes on the establishment and wins? And she's the best looking of the whole bunch! And just maybe the most honest.

    It's already happening. How much talk have we heard in the media about Obama's VP? Didn't he select one too?
    There seems to be only ONE VP nomination according to the news coverage.

    September 4, 2008 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  9. THE O

    Fears, Smears, and Tears thats all the republicans are bringing to the table.

    BARACK THE VOTE!!!!!!!!!

    September 4, 2008 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  10. Jennifer Raimondi

    David, let me first start off by saying I have gotten hooked on CNN because of you. Through out this election I have followed your thoughts and really believe that you might be the smartest person in politics I have ever watched. Thank you for all your contributions to this election.

    On the noted of Sarah Palin. I don't think she can connect with middle of the road America. Watching her made me so deeply sad because throughout this election I feel like the country as come so far and she took us back to the reasons why we are so highly disliked across the globe. In my opinion, what America's are seeking is growth....growth of our nation to come together and become a nation that we are proud of. I travel for business all around the world, and I truly believe that the rest of the world is growing in terms of science and MOST importantly TOLERANCE and unity. People in Europe don't care about what sex you are dating, or what god you believe, they care about understanding the differences that make us all special in our own way and using those differences to learn from each other and advance....

    When I watched the biography of John McCain that was done by John King, I was moved. I had a completely different opinion of the republican. After watching Sarah tonight, I see a DEEP contrast in the two. John McCain COMPLETELY sold out on his true beliefs in order to satisfy the GOP. Heartbreaking.

    September 4, 2008 01:29 am at 1:29 am |


    September 4, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  12. welches, oregon

    No – absolutely not. The GOPs have nothing but smoke and mirrors. At least Obama tells us Exactly what he's going to do. Repubs just tell you who to hate.

    Did you hear how she wants to take away law enforcement reading you your rights?

    It's always shoot first and ask questions later for them. Guilty until proven innocent with them.

    September 4, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  13. Tara

    All I heard tonight was We ( republicans) are patriotic and love american and everyone else ( democrats or others ) don't. The Character attacks were angry mean and horrible. Bush talked about liberals being angry but I think its the other way around. All attacks no substance. Barack laid out to us exactly what he will do. Palin and the Repubs have no platform.. no plans for America. McCain chose her for political reasons not for the country.

    September 4, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  14. OS

    One of the most pathetic and politically cheap speech lacking moral values and absolutely no substance.

    This woman is not even fit to be a decent human being.

    September 4, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  15. dolcex

    Palin will no doubt appeal to huge swaths of the "Republican base" and 'misunderstood suburbanites' throughout America.

    That said, it is clear she is an unabashedly extreme-right-wing politician, far more so that any of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld gang (with the possible exception of John Ashcroft).

    If that's what "the people" want then that's what they shall have.

    "McCain the maverick" who stands up to his party and the far right is now official the biggest single joke of the campaign season.

    September 4, 2008 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  16. aliou FL

    This suburban here, see disaster in her. It makes me scared of McCain. McCain's attack of the media is even scarier than his lack of judgement in selecting this novice to a job of pro.

    September 4, 2008 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  17. From the crowds that brought you Bush

    How soon people forget, this is the same crowd fired up by Bush and Cheney just 4 years ago.

    September 4, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  18. Mike in Minnesota

    Hmmm, 12 out of 12 siding with the democrats on these comments- As expected, CNN's audience is 100% liberal democrats – go figure 🙂

    September 4, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  19. John

    Sarah presented all she has been rehearsing in her bunker for the past three days. The speech was more like that of a high school teenage contest. No substastance, no real issues. And the then "barracuda wink wink" – I thought that was such an unprofessional body language. There was very little seriousness to the content. It was a comedy.

    I believe the speech was aimed at the conservative provincial vote:
    – The vote from those who believe women have no choice over their bodies.
    – The vote from those who do not care about guns in the streets.
    – The vote from those who believe in "shoot'em" deplomacy.
    – The vote from the less informed and less scientific minority who do not understand the scientific facts about global warming.
    – The vote from those who are easy to sway by fear mongering.

    The contemporary world does not subscribe to these ideologies. Informed Americans do not agree with any of her political positions. McBush campaign is aware of this, and thats why they wrote her speech, omitting all these ke issues that are important to American people.

    September 4, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  20. Jamar

    I think Sara Palin is a joke to begin with, and she is an example of everything that the republican party stands for in terms of playing dirty tricks and tactics in order to get more votes. She will not gain my vote towards McCain, and after hearing her poorly put together speech, along with the other republicans, I have decided to vote for Obama.

    September 4, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  21. karen from NE

    David–I am about as "rural" as you can get in America and I found Gov. Palin's caustic, divisive, sarcastic remarks appalling! Not all of us are the rednecks her family and supporters seem proud to proclaim they are. And most of us know how to pronounce "nuclear", unlike President Bush and Gov. Palin. It is sad that she could not inspire with new ideas about how to solve some of the major problems we face as a nation. I would be so ashamed to have someone so caustic as our nation's representative for the outside world. Give me Barack's gentle intellect and common sense any day!

    September 4, 2008 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  22. ginger

    Dear Hillary voters now McCain voters:

    I would like to ask you a sincere question? Is voting for John McCain going to bring the change Hillary sought? Do you care about America our just your personal vote? I honestly don't believe you care about me as a fellow citizen. Do you care about our men and women fighting an unjust war? What about all the children and elderly who don't have and can't afford health insurance? Do you not care about the rest of us?

    I've been to Sen. McCains website and read about his plans for America and believe me, it won't help us. How can you vote for a health plan that allows $3,500 for single people and double for married couples. What type of care will we get for $3,500.00 or $7,000.00? I don't think you Hillary supports care about Americans.

    Dem of Obama & Biden 08

    September 4, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  23. it's me

    Obama can't compare to Palin. Get it.

    September 4, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  24. Ana K

    I have heard Sen. Obama speak several times and in each occasion, he has talked about there not being a "red America" or a "blue America," but a United States of America. He even said that in his convention speech. He calls on us to unite because only then can we solve the great problems in this country. Palin tonight was divisive. It reminded me of Cheney/Rove/Bush. Slash and burn. I am SICK AND TIRED of divisive politics. I am SICK AND TIRED of culture wars. I am SICK AND TIRED of the republicans. Is that all they have to offer?

    September 4, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  25. Buck

    Excellent speech and well-delivered. The democrats have their work cut out for them. How can you question whether she will resonate w/ surburban America when she embodies so much of surburban America? No other vice presidential candidate is as in touch w/ the issues that face us in surburbia. I much prefer Mrs. Palin over the plagiarist.

    What may ultimately put Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin over the top is the treatment of her by the media – shameful and disgraceful. We all know this is just the beginning. Unleash the attack dogs... and continue to focus on her family. How come we don't see any reruns of Mr. Biden's infamous speech? Does anyone think this was an honest mistake? In my line of work, people get sued for stuff like this and reputations are irrepairably damaged because it is a character issue (not to mention a horrible lack of judgement). And there is no leftist bias in the media... Hmmm....

    If this election is about character – true character – then there is no comparison between the choices.

    September 4, 2008 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
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