Just got off the telephone with my kid brother up in Alaska. He and his wife are spending a week out in Homer on the beach in an RV with her daughter and son-in-law but took time out to give me his opinion on his governor.
Although raised in Chicago by a bleeding heart, left wing liberal (my father), his mother (my stepmother) was an Ayn Rand libertarian. Poor Kenny, tends to be a moderate to conservative independent. He has lived in Alaska since 1974 and owns a home in Wasilla and has, like most other Alaskans in Wasilla, met the Governor repeatedly. Our cousin's husband went to school with her for years, etc.
Aside from the fact that she is very well liked and that she is very attractive, he touched on a few of the reasons Alaskans like her.
She is fiesty, and she has a special quality that appeals to people. Powerful speaker, she did a bang-up job on Murkowski during the debates.
Although people are surprised that she was able to hide her pregnancy so well, she is widely admired for keeping her Downs syndrome son. (He thought the earlier rumors about Trig were ridiculous.)
Her separatist ties have been overblown although her husband may have been involved in "that stuff."
She has retained her popularity in Alaska in spite of the trooper gate, with most Alaskans focusing on the sins of the trooper instead of the abuse of power.
She is a really nice person but a determined political fighter. Although her nickname the "barracuda" was earned in high school, it is still used, especially by her political opponents.
Ken was a little disappointed because he has come over to Obama in a big way (as he said, "the more I learn about him and hear what he has to say, the more I like him") and thought there was a chance for him to carry Alaska. But with Sarah's overwhelming popularity the state was now almost a lock for McCain (all 3 electoral votes!).
Basically he didn't have anything to tell me that we all haven't heard elsewhere except the very strong warning not to under estimate her. Her entire political career has been built on people not taking her seriously enough. She was able to make Murkowski look bad in the Alaska gubernatorial debates, which nobody, including Murkowski expected. Hopefully that was because they were debating Alaskan issues and that ability would not carry over to national issues.
His emphasis on her hidden strengths was repeated numerous times as was the caution to not underestimate her or her abilities. She is very appealing to low info voters.