MINNEAPOLIS | A key evangelical leader and foe of John McCain's presidential bid says the Republican's running mate choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has made him a believer.
Focus on the Family President James Dobson told The Washington Times Friday he now fully supports Mr. McCain, joining a chorus of influential social and fiscal conservatives thrilled by the pick of Mrs. Palin.
"If flip-flopping is a sin, I'm a sinner," said Mr. Dobson. "As you know, I once said I don't see how I could ever come to support John McCain."
Mr. Dobson praised Mrs. Palin's reform-minded credentials, but social conservatives said they were excited about her pro-family, pro-life stances and fiscal conservatives pointed to her support for tax cuts and her opposition to pork barrel spending as reasons to get excited.
Those gathered in Minneapolis for next week's Republican convention said coupled with Mr. McCain leaving the party platform a conservative document, they are now convinced he is not out to moderate the party.
Donald J. Devine, a conservative author, former Reagan White House personnel director and skeptic about Mr. McCain, also was swayed Friday when the Republican candidate tapped tapped Mrs. Palin to be the first female vice presidential nominee Republicans have ever had.
"I never thought McCain could do anything that could get this cynical old conservative to care about his election," Mr. Devine said. "Sarah Palin is unbelievably good. I first met her years ago as a solid limited government, socially conservative activist and she hasn't changed a bit since."
Democrats argued Mrs. Palin has too little experience to be vice president and while some said Mrs. Palin is an impressive woman, they said the pick reflects political desperation on Mr. McCain's part.
"After the great success of the Democratic convention, the choice of Sarah Palin is surely a Hail Mary pass," said Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat. "It is a real role of the dice."
But David Barton, the influential founder and president of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization, said that despite her having been governor for only two years, she reassures skeptical Republicans and independents about Mr. McCain.
"The talk won't be about, 'look at Sarah Palin' as much as 'look at what McCain's choice of Palin says about McCain's core beliefs,'" Mr. Bartin said. "In the back of Republican minds, they are now comfortable that if something should happen to McCain that they have a competent conservative in the wings to lead the country. The primary effect of the VP choice is to remove a concern from the table."
The breadth of Mrs. Palin's appeal is apparently far wider than any of the other possible choices on Mr. McCain's potential running-mate list.
"Everyone I know in the evangelical community is ecstatic over McCain's choice for vice president," Merrill Matthews, Resident Scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, said. "Millions of conservatives, who have been somewhat tepid about the Republican presidential nominee, are charged in ways that rival or exceeds the Democratic fervor. This is one of those instances where McCain's tendency to be a maverick paid off in a big way."
Mr. Dobson said that he began coming to accept Mr. McCain during his nationally televised question-and-answer session with megachurch pastor Rick Warren in California recently.
Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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