In a Veterans' Bar in Indiana

Thursday, September 4, 2008

WHITING, Ind., Sept. 3 -- At an Amvets bar in Whiting, near the BP oil refinery, a Cargill plant and other heavy industry in northwestern Indiana, bargoers applauded Sarah Palin's candidacy because of what they described as her traditional, all-American values.

Still, they jeered periodically at what they saw as contrivances in her speech. "She allows her teenage daughter to get pregnant and have sex, and you guys are so conservative?" asked one woman who declined to give her name, mocking Palin's highlighting of her children during the speech.

But Sue Struss, 48, expressed appreciation of Palin's family values. "She has a family, her husband has two jobs -- they're clearly American people, not some rich people," said Struss, a lifelong Whiting resident and the manager of the bar, which is adorned by an American flag in twinkling lights, wood paneling, and Bud and Miller pendants.

"I think it's great they picked a woman, but I hope they didn't do it just because she's a woman," said bartender Ann Watkins, 42.

John Lawson, 44, a chemical engineer at BP, said working-class Whiting residents are torn between the traditional Democratic support of labor and the traditional values represented by Palin. "She's facing the same challenges as a lot of Americans -- a pregnant daughter, a disabled son, balancing work and family," he said.

Whiting residents were overall far more interested in the Cubs game than the convention; of seven downtown bars, the Amvets watering hole was the only one showing the convention, and then only at Lawson's request.

Charles White, 48, an out-of-work house painter who is a military veteran, said he thought the speech was uninspiring and showed hopelessness among Republicans. "I go by body language, and if you feel you have a good running mate, you're going to be pumped up," he said of McCain. "McCain just chose her because she's a pretty face, and none of the men would go with him because they know he's going to lose."

-- Kari Lydersen

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