NEWBURYPORT — Bruce Brown has been a Republican his whole life, but his belief in the party strengthened this election as Republican presidential hopeful John McCain chose running mate Sarah Palin.
Local Republicans are rejoicing in the choice, calling it another example of how McCain's "independent thinking" will bring needed change to Washington.
"I've been a lifelong Republican," said Brown, chairman of the Seabrook Republican Committee. "A lot of women should be pleased Palin is on the ticket. I think McCain has a chance. It will be close, but I think we can win it."
As the 39th Republican National Convention got off to a rocky start on Monday while Hurricane Gustav pounded the Gulf Coast states, yesterday Republicans converged on St. Paul, Minn., ready to get the RNC back on track and officially nominate McCain for president.
In light of Gustav, McCain was absent on Monday as he helped ship relief packages to those affected. President Bush also canceled his speech, rescheduling to last night.
But with the recent announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate, the disclosure that Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, riots and the rescheduling of events earlier in the week due to Gustav, the RNC has so far had its share of distractions.
The news of Palin's daughter was followed by an announcement that a private lawyer for Palin has been hired to represent her in an investigation into her dismissing Alaska's public safety commissioner. Critics have maintained that she ordered the firing after the commissioner refused to fire an officer who had divorced Palin's sister.
For Northern Essex Community College assistant professor of history Steve Russell, the choice was a risk at best.
"I think McCain is doing pretty well considering Bush is not popular. He conveys he knows what he is doing and can take the reins," Russell said. "But I think Palin is an incredibe risk. I don't see how it could possibly help him."
Despite the controversy swirling around the RNC, local Republicans are confident McCain and Palin will be victorious in November.
Today, McCain is expected to formally accept the Republican Party's nomination.
"Frankly, I was shocked by McCain's choice of vice president," said Richard Baker of West Newbury, Republican candidate for congress running against Democrat John Tierney. "She (Palin) wasn't on my radar, but the more I read about her, the more impressed I am. I'm glad McCain took a governor as opposed to a senator. She has a lot of depth."
Russell, though baffled by the choice of running mate, said he did think the selection of Palin may put a different spin on the Republican party.
"It will put a younger spin on the party," Russell said. "It may get more people to like him. She is an ordinary person like a lot of Americans with ordinary problems."
While Republican critics lamented McCain's choice of running mate, Baker believes the choice illustrates McCain's "out-of-the-box thinking."
"I think he sealed the presidency with the selection (of Palin)," Baker said. "McCain is an independent thinker, and he will look at the issues and not follow one party or another but independently find the best answer."
Republican Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins of Newburyport is also watching the RNC carefully, confident McCain and Palin will bring a new outlook to the nation.
"He is an independent thinker, which is clear with his choice of running mate. People thought he would take a Washington insider, but he didn't. She is well liked and seems to have made the tough decisions," Cousins said. "McCain has always been a maverick, he will vote with the Democrats when he agrees and vote against them when he doesn't, and I like that in a person."
As Baker gears up for the congressional election this fall, he finds McCain's politics inspiring.
"I don't always agree with him, but I know he puts the efforts forth to think things through and find the best answer," Baker said. "With Palin, he didn't pick the obvious choice, he came from a different angle, and that is how I approach life."
Baker also notes McCain's experience as a reason for voting for him.
"He has a tremendous amount of wisdom he has gathered over the years," Baker said. "With that experience and his unique viewpoint, it will be a breath of fresh air."
Brown is looking forward to the Seabrook Republican Committee meeting tomorrow, where a representative from the McCain campaign will speak. Brown will be working to organize Republican campaign fundraisers and events through the fall and further push the message of McCain.
"Even in New Hampshire, I think we have a good chance of putting New Hampshire back in the Republican column," he said. "McCain spent a lot of time here in the last several years."