PLUS: WATCH THE KY3 NEWS @ 10 REPORT HEREIn many ways, Patty Dixon explains the appeal of Sarah Palin in the Ozarks beyond the obvious ideological match.
Dixon, a middle-aged Nixa wife and mother of a daughter, who sat in line over night at Borders bookstore, explained that she'd be willing to bet on Palin -- flaws and all -- over other pols, because she's, well . . . ordinary.
Dixon relishes the unlikely rise of a woman who is living the dream: An ambitious thirst for a public career balanced with full family obligations. Oh, and the killer looks don't hurt either.
In her speech before thousands at College of the Ozarks Wednesday night, Palin herself touted her ordinary beginnings, "born far from Washington and Wall Street."
In chatting with Palin supporters, over and over they pointed to her personal story before mentioning any of her policy positions. That's what separates Sarah.
She wasn't Ivy League material. She took five years to finish a 4-year degree. She began modestly as a city councilwoman. She built a big family. She took on the boys club, rose to prominence quickly. Maybe too quickly. So what if she flubbed the Katie Couric interview? It's normal to be nervous. Do we really want the best interviewer? Look at where the speechifying Barack Obama has gotten us. And of course, being female is a plus.
This was the repeated reply from the Palinistas, mostly middle-aged women who believe the former Alaska Governor is not only a real-time example of what their daughters can accomplish, but what they would have liked to, if they had "the barracuda's" hunger, spunk and timing.
Palin has the sizzle and some natural talent that adds the spark.
A striking woman who speaks plainly, carries an accent that sounds comfortable in the Midwest and delivers raw political blows against anything establishment with a wink and a nod translates into big crowds.
"Only dead fish go with the flow," Palin said to cheers.
But as she builds a growing movement, seizes on her popularity and contemplates a 2012 presidential run, she's also undeniably in the middle of a rehabilitation tour.
Her message at College of the Ozarks, a speech closed to the media, was essentially three-pronged: 1) An attack on the mainstream media that she believed has maligned her and her family. 2) A defense of her decision to quit her Governorship mid-term parlayed into her anti-establishment message of carrying the torch of service without a title. 3) A blistering critique of the current administration's policies from big government spending to "apologizing" to foreign countries.
The rant against the "lame-stream" media was expected. At least five times, Palin pounded the press for "spinning my record."
She stressed she wasn't whining, but then blamed unsustainable attacks from her political opponents for pushing her out of the Governorship.
"Calling the audible has worked for my state," said Palin, in a sentence that some might interpret as saying Alaska's in better shape now that she's gone.
Palin's 50-minute speech was dubbed as a talk about citizenship and patriotism, but it undoubtedly ventured into politics.
She seemed to rouse the Keeter gymnasium with a call to action, but specific policy positions were glaringly absent.
She blamed the economic crisis on "misplaced government interference," but offered no alternative to the massive economic stimulus package. She called the doubling of the deficit "irresponsible and immoral," but steered clear of details on how to reign it in. She mocked "Washington leadership" for apologizing to foreign countries and then proclaimed "we need to be proud to be Americans," as if the current administration is not.
Palin is not a candidate yet and her supporters will argue, convincingly perhaps, that it's too early for hard and firm positions.
There is something real and compelling about Palin's story, but substance is what tripped her up during the 2008 campaign and it's what will continue to be under the magnifying glass going forward.
Ironically, she may end up with the same problem Obama had to combat.
Sure, she can deliver a heck of a speech and fill an auditorium. But then what?
Dixon, a genuine woman who acknowledged she enjoyed our spirited discussion on Palin, even stopped short of saying the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is qualified for the top spot.
For her, it's more a visceral feeling from the gut.
"She's human and that's what we like," she said.