Public opinion polls show that many American women are responding enthusiastically to the Republican nominee for U.S. vice president, Governor Sarah Palin. Many white women voters appear to have turned away from the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, to Republican Senator John McCain since he announced Palin as his running mate. But some feminist groups say the McCain-Palin ticket would reverse progress on issues important to women. Leta Hong Fincher has more.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has become one of America's most famous working mothers since being named the Republican vice presidential nominee.
"I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA [parent-teacher association]," Palin told supporters.
The supporter of gun rights and 44-year-old mother of five has energized Republican voters who were previously not enthusiastic about Senator John McCain. And white women are among Palin's most fervent fans - like Angel Voggenreiter, a part-time working mother in Virginia.
"I did go to the McCain-Palin rally and I probably wouldn't have gone if it had just been John McCain, because, you know, [I have to] get the kids up in the morning, I have work to do. But I basically took the whole day off to go to see Sarah Palin," Voggenreiter said.
Recent public opinion polls show a significant shift in support among white women from Democratic Senator Barack Obama to McCain since he named Palin as his running mate.
Many of these women say they feel a connection to Palin as a mother struggling to balance work and family.
Brenda Imber, a single working mother in Virginia, saw an interview with Palin when the governor was pregnant with her fifth child. "She's giving her youngest daughter a burnt hamburger and you see the bottle of ketchup and she's playing with her hair and putting it up in a little bun and the daughter starts talking to her about a picture I think she made for her dad and she just kind of incorporates work with family and is able to do it," Imber said.
Palin has repeatedly praised Senator Hillary Clinton, appealing to the millions of women who voted for the Democratic senator when she ran for president.
"Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and the voters will shatter that glass ceiling once and for all," Palin said.
But Clinton now campaigns for former rival Obama and says a vote for the McCain-Palin ticket would be the wrong choice. "You can be excited about someone being nominated for vice president - we [Democrats] did it in 1984 with my friend Geraldine Ferraro," Clinton said. "The Republicans have done it in 2008, but that's not a good enough reason to vote for that ticket."
Many women's groups warn that Palin holds anti-feminist views, such as opposing abortion even when the mother is a victim of rape or incest. And they say McCain has opposed equal pay legislation.
This week, the National Organization for Women endorsed the Obama ticket.
Linda Basch is president of the National Council for Research on Women, which has not made an endorsement. "Right now, it's appearing as though the whole Palin phenomenon is a setback for women and women's issues because we need to be serious about these matters right now," Basch said. "The situation is too dire in this country, the economy is tanking in so many ways and women are the prime losers."
But women like Angel Voggenreiter disagree. "I may not make the same choices as Sarah Palin has made to achieve such a high place in the government, but I feel like she really speaks for me and represents me," Voggenreiter said.
And Palin's personal story is enough to win some of their votes.