Here's what I wrote to friends a month ago.
Background: We have seldom made a political contribution; the only one I can think of is one we made to one of the re-election campaigns for Senator Pete Domenici. We have never attended a political rally for any candidate. We have never had a political bumper sticker on any of our cars, though for part of that time that may have been influenced by military political prohibitions. (Don't get ahead of me, now!)
Nearer background: John McCain has not been my candidate. I have strongly objected to some of the bills he has sponsored -- McCain-Feingold and Kennedy-McCain come immediately to mind. John McCain is still not my candidate -- except by comparison to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. You may remember what I wrote more than a year ago, that New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was the only Democrat running who was worth considering. That's still the case -- and he's been out of the race for some time now.
Current observations: From what I read and what I hear in conversations, McCain's selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin for the VP spot has been making a BIG difference. Crowds have gotten big. Money is pouring in. Volunteers, too. Offices all over the country have described the difference as "like a switch being thrown." It's added an excitement factor to his campaign.
Since Gov Palin was named, I've seen three sorts of reactions. The Left and the yellow dog Democrats (who would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican) -- and I know a number of folks in both categories -- have been negative. [I noted and commented on some of that reaction here.] Of course, those folks would have a negative knee-jerk reaction about ANYONE on a Republican ticket. For the rest, the reaction has varied with how much they knew about Palin. Those who have known about her record have been positive. Those who have not known about her have been unsure -- but have tended to become more supportive as they have learned about her. Yes, my circle of acquaintance might be a factor, and these advantages could be thrown away, but I don't see a downside as of now.
There seems to be some tactical good news in this pick, too. Obama spent quite some time ignoring McCain and trying to make the case that he has more experience than Palin. To do that, he's had to lie about both his experience and hers -- ignoring her governorship and pretending that going where his campaign manager tells him to go is executive experience. Independent of anything else, his focus on comparing himself to Palin makes clear he can't compare to McCain, which will have an effect on everyone but the committed Left and the yellow dog Democrats.
For myself: I knew a lot more about Gov Sarah Palin than most folks. I'd actually been running across material on her for some months. Some was from folks who said things like "I wish McCain would select her for VP, but it'll never happen." I tended to agree with that assessment. But I was also impressed with her drive, and with what she's accomplished in Alaska in a relatively short time. And then what they thought would never happen, did happen. And it made a difference. For us, McCain's willingness to stake out a position in this manner and select someone with real reform and issue (especially energy) credentials got us to make a contribution to his campaign.
It is said a candidate's VP selection gives a view into the candidate's head. Obama's selection said his "change" mantra was BS, eyewash. McCain's selection seemed to put a different light on even the things he's done that I objected to. It seems to emphasize his mission orientation, and the resulting willingness to take "half a loaf" to get SOMETHING -- ANYTHING -- to get something done. It reminded me of my Dad muttering at the director when something went wrong at his TV station "Do SOMETHING, even if it's WRONG!" (And, clearly, I believe he gave up far too much to Feingold and Kennedy, for example, to get some kind of bill.) But it also suggests that, given the opportunity, McCain would prefer to be a true reformer. This selection made us much more positive about supporting and voting for him.
That enthusiasm, and a friend's wife who works in a political office and moonlights for the McCain campaign, got us tickets to the event when John McCain and Sarah Palin came to Albuquerque the Saturday after the Republican convention ended. 6000 tickets were given out, in about a day. Then a bigger room (exhibit hall) was obtained, and the campaign said others should just show up. MANY did. Even so, the press reports just said "over 6,000" attended. Like most people, we were behind the podium; not many were in front, between it and the TV cameras. The good thing about where we were was that, being higher, we could actually see the platform and the speakers -- and we have the pictures to prove it.
Now we need to find bumper stickers. The one for my wife's van should be one that says "I'm voting for Sarah -- and that old guy she's running with". And one for my car -- maybe "Another Democrat for McCain". Yes, I am aware that wearing McCain bumper stickers puts our cars at risk for damage.
One more thing: A friend (actually more than one) asked me if I thought Palin would be a good president, a question with particular relevance because of McCain's age and long-term physical damage. Under these circumstances, that is a legitimate question. My answer is that one can argue the hypotheticals of whether she would make a good president. But if John McCain's age kicks in and he drops dead, I'd MUCH rather see Sarah Palin in the White House than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden. Plus, of course, she starts today with a lot more experience than Harry Truman had, for example, when he succeeded FDR -- and much more executive experience than either Obama or Biden. And she'll get more between now and whenever it might be needed. (I should say, too, that my friends started off being pretty negative, but have since made contributions to the McCain-Palin campaign.)
I wrote all the above before watching the first presidential debate. (Actually, most of it a couple of weeks before.) Yes, we watched the debate. And we saw nothing new. Obama continued to perform as the Chicago (Richard J. Daley) Machine politician he is. He'll say anything to win, no matter how what he says conflicts with either or both of reality and what he's said before. He figures once he gets in he can do whatever he wants. (Hey, it worked before -- that's how the Senate got its most left-wing member.) Meanwhile, McCain was McCain, as he's always been. As usual, he's trying too much to get along. That translates into too many times when he's let Obama get away with his false statements. (I had a fantasy earlier this week that McCain stayed in Washington and sent Sarah to the debate in his place. And she chimed in multiple times with "But Barack, that's not what you told so-and-so. That's not what you said in this debate/speech/interview.")