McCain-Palin Duo Draws Enthusiastic Crowds

John McCain raised $4 million at a Chicago fundraiser Monday night, bringing the total raised by the Republican Party to $14 million since Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin was named the GOP's vice presidential candidate.

It's called the "Palin Effect." Since the Arizona senator named Palin as his running mate, enthusiastic crowds have gathered for McCain events in record numbers, soaring up to 11,000 attendees.

These huge crowds at McCain's events are unprecedented in his year and a half campaigning; his post-convention crowds rival the turnout seen for his Democratic opponents, presidential candidate Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden.

Enthusiasm among the Republican base, so long suspicious of McCain, has soared since Palin joined the ticket.

"It's re-energized the base and it's reached out to swing voters who are intrigued by her," said Matthew Dowd, an ABC News contributor and former speech writer for the Bush-Cheney campaigns.

Beyond the base, the vice presidential pick has appealed to at least one major constituency: white women. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, white women have shifted in support of McCain by 20 points, signaling that Palin's "hockey mom" image has attracted substantial numbers to the ticket.

Pleased with the surge in support, the McCain campaign skipped plans for the two to campaign separately this week and kept the ticket together as it visited the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

On the stump in Lebanon, Ohio, this morning, McCain barely touched on the war in Iraq and did not mention President Bush's announcement that 8,000 troops would be withdrawn by February 2009.

Instead, McCain and Palin attacked congressional earmarks, the billions of dollars that members of Congress shower on their home states.

"My friends, I've got a pen and I'm going to veto every single pork barrel bill," McCain said to a cheering crowd.

They specifically targeted Obama for requesting what they say amounts to $1 billion in earmarks during his three years in the Senate.

"In just three years my opponent has requested $1 billion of earmarks," Palin said, echoing her running mate's remarks. "That's about a million dollars a day for every day he's been in office."

"There is almost no politician in America with a clean record on earmarks, but it is something that strikes a cord with voters," said Mark Halperin, a political analyst at Time. "Big spending has been a big problem in the Republican Party and the Bush years -- that is why this is striking such a cord."

But Palin failed to mention her own history with earmarks; while she served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the town had a lobbyist in Washington who helped bring in $27 million to 6,700 people.

Palin likes to tout her reformer credentials, pointing to her opposition to the planned $25 billion bridge to an Alaskan island with fewer than 100 residents.

But as candidate for governor, Palin was in favor of "The Bridge to Nowhere," which McCain railed against for years as a waste of government money.

With criticism of Palin's record running rampant, the McCain campaign says it has created a 55-member "Palin Truth Squad" to handle any attacks against his running mate.

Palin will leave McCain midweek to return to Alaska, as her eldest son, Track, leaves for duty in Iraq.

One question is whether McCain will continue to draw such large and enthusiastic crowds when he campaigns alone again.

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