- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

He’s a member of the steelworkers union, a registered independent and has championed the need for vocational - not Ivy League - education in his home state.

He works the night shift in North Slope oil fields, fishes commercially in icy waters and flies around snowy Alaska in a floatplane, all the while winning four cross-state snowmobile championships.

At home, he happily navigates between hardworking man’s man and hunky Mr. Mom to the five Palin children, comfortable in his role as rock-solid support spouse to wife Sarah’s power career.

Now, with her historic nomination as Republican vice-presidential candidate, some are wondering if Todd Palin might be the Republican Party’s key and yet untapped surrogate to reaching working-class voters, some put off by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

“If I had a crystal ball a few years ago, I might have asked a few more questions when Sarah decided to join the PTA,” Mr. Palin joked at a Republican National Convention event in St. Paul, Minn., acknowledging how his own life was caught up in his wife’s political whirlwind.

With his wife’s notorious tenacity and competitive streak, “it’s best to get out of the way,” he said.

Two weeks after his wife’s debut as Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s No. 2, Mr. Palin’s colorful back story and public profile are rising, including an “Iron Dog Alaska Snow Machine trail sign from 1998” catching steam on eBay, said Karen Bard, the Web commerce giant’s pop-culture expert.

“His persona is rugged, and he’s a real mountain man. He’s very male,” Miss Bard says of the Todd Palin appeal.

The Palins’ seemingly tight-knit “Brady Bunch” family with five children, including an infant, also continues to fascinate. As dad, Mr. Palin appears modern enough to handle his wife’s surging national profile yet able to identify with working-class men.

This voter demographic was loyal to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries, particularly in states such as West Virginia and Kentucky.

Mr. Palin “might be just the man to make their case,” said Wilfred McClay, a professor of humanities at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, who recognizes Todd’s “authentic” appeal.

“This guy is not a big-resume guy, and he’s not a wimp. He’s something different, almost the kind of husband that a lot of women who have to work and be the breadwinner wish that they could have,” Mr. McClay said.

Mr. McClay says Mr. Palin’s working-man credibility and his wife’s bootstrap approach to governing set them apart from the power-coupling that often predominates in Washington. They have children and jobs, and live full “hockey mom” lives, which seem far away from the world of political-minded Beltway strivers.

“A part of why this is all working is it’s actually real,” he said. “This is not a gimmick.”

By contrast, he says, the Palins’ seeming middle-America wholesomeness may force some voters, including union-types traditionally aligned with Democrats, to rethink the Obama rock-star image.

Sociologist Veronica Tichenor, an assistant professor at the SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica, N.Y., said the Palins are not typical in that even as a career woman, Sarah Palin has had five children and has not diminished her role as mother, even as her profile has climbed.

“He’s been very successful in presenting a very masculine side, and I think it will probably allow working-class men to identify with him and by extension, her,” Miss Tichenor said. “That’s a distinct possibility.”

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