October 31, 2008
By Ed Stoddard - Analysis
DALLAS (Reuters) - Sarah Palin has emerged as the new darling of social conservatives, and this political capital could make her an influential vice president — or propel her as a candidate for the prime spot in 2012 — if John McCain loses to Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday.
But even within Republican circles the moose-hunting Alaska governor is a polarizing figure who highlights her party's divisions between fiscal conservatives and conservative Christians united by their strident opposition to abortion and gay rights.
"If they do in fact lose on Tuesday she becomes one of the central figures for 2012," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"Clearly, Palin is a star with the social conservatives but many of the country-club Republicans just find her completely unpalatable," he said.
The 44-year-old mother of five has become the northern light that has electrified the Republican Party's conservative evangelical base — its most reliable voting bloc.
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