Politics & Government

Palin shows she's still got star power in Georgia

Sarah Theus blew her perfect attendance record at Porter Elementary to go Monday to see Sarah Palin in Perry.

The 11-year-old from Macon wore a hot pink "Sarah" headband that caught Palin's eye as she took the stage at a rally for Senator Saxby Chambliss on the eve of the run-off.

"Our candidate did not win the election but she won our hearts," said Sally Theus, Sarah's mother, who gave in to her daughter's begging to attend the rally.

Theus drove down to Perry with her sister-in-law Tammy Hawkins and 9-year-old niece Hailey Hawkins, who missed a day at Covenant Academy.

They were the first to arrive at the Miller-Murphy-Howard building of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry about four and a half hours before the Alaska governor was expected to speak.

"We wanted the girls to see a fine, upstanding, Christian woman with five kids and a good career," Tammy Hawkins said. "We just wanted them to see you can succeed."

The men seemed to have slightly outnumbered the women in the crowd as chants of "Saxby, Saxby, Saxby" filled the room and got Palin's attention.

"Saxby," she echoed while nodding her head. "You betcha," she said to a roar of cheers. While comics have stereotyped Palin's phrases and dialect, the Republican vice presidential candidate's voice and message ring true for conservatives.

Korean War veteran Chuck Griggers of Macon said he came down to see what he called the "conservative side of the so-called Republican party."

"I saw the what-you-call the middle of the road in McCain," Griggers said. "But this gal, she has the moral standard to breathe new life into the Republican party."

Neal Cowan of Warner Robins said he doesn't stand up for more than an hour waiting for just anybody.

"Now she's something," Cowan said of Palin. "Just a fresh face. I think she will hang in there and do what she says she'll do."

Pam Sena drove her 7-year-old granddaughter from Locust Grove to see the young girl's role model. Morgan Sena took it hard when McCain-Palin lost the election, Pam Sena said. Her granddaughter thought Palin should have been at the top of the ticket.

When asked why the youngster thought Palin should be president, Morgan turned her eyes to the ceiling as she considered her response. Her shoes wobbled as she perched on the metal railing of the barrier behind the press platform while she thought.

"She's good," Morgan said softly and then added, "Cause she's pretty."

Others in the audience found Palin's principles just as attractive. Palin's smiling face adorned a campaign button on Mary Kimberly's red sweatshirt with "America" emblazoned across the chest.

"We like Palin because she's pro-life," said Kimberly, of Macon.

"I think she's the average American," Pam Sena added. "She's your Josephine the plumber or Sarah the fisherman."

Red, white and blue painted signs on the stage drew applause with their printed punchlines: "Read my lipstick - vote for Sax", "Keep your Change" and "Palin-Chambliss 2012".

After Palin left the room, Sarah Theus and her cousin Hailey Hawkins were giddy with excitement. They carried Palin's autographs as they left the room in their over-sized pink sweatshirts.

"She touched this," Sarah said with a fresh signature on her pink fleece "Sarah" headband.

"She touched my finger. She touched my finger," Hailey said while jumping up and down.

The 9-year-old hunter hadn't been this excited since she killed her third wild hog over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Now Hailey's mother hopes Palin's appearance will help her daughter continue to aim for success in the future.