THE FUTURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

I snapped this picture at a Sarah Palin rally in York, Pennsylvania this afternoon:

Palin rally.JPG

Now these little guys were not dressed up for Halloween (although many kids, including Piper Palin, were), and they were most definitely on the youngish side for this crowd, which was probably about half folks I would peg at being over 50. But Palin-love wasn't just a geriatric thing; there were a lot of young families on hand too, and, like the little boys in the picture, they were being primed to believe that Barack Obama wants to steal their money.

There's been a lot of talk about Palin's future in the Republican Party. She was a lot more impressive in person than I expected; she threw some policy substance into her speech (some of it, on Obama's tax policy, inaccurate), and she spliced the requisite amount of fear-mongering about, as she put it, "the far left-wing of the Democrat Party getting ready to take over the entire government," and the creeping "socialism" that might entail.

Before she even arrived (with the Straight Talk Express pulling right into the small arena just feet away from the crowd, in a moment of high drama), people I talked to had bought right into the scary socialism theme. Everyone I spoke to either thought Obama was a socialist (or, as one woman put it, "a Marxist, and how far away is Marxism from Communism?") or "tended toward socialism."

Palin invoked Reagan's name once or twice -- and usually that gets a big rise from an audience like this. But the positive reaction for Palin herself, and the booing for Obama, eclipsed that.

Most people here are, despite the polls, confident of a McCain win on Tuesday. But one young woman told me that although York County is typically solid Republican, she's worried because she knows a lot of Republicans voting for Obama. But if they lose on Tuesday, I would not count Palin out for 2012. I was just a few feet from her in the rope line, and she has a certain magnetism that conservatives adore.

--Sarah Posner

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