ST. PAUL, Minn. Former White House intern Kari Fox, 19, now a member of the Utah delegation to the Republican National Convention that begins Monday, had no way of knowing she was meeting a woman who could be the next vice president.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was one of many people Fox helped put in touch with White House officials. But something about Palin, Alaska's first female and youngest-ever governor, impressed Fox even then.
"She really was very interested in a lot of issues," Fox said of the several times she dealt with Palin, who Arizona Sen. John McCain announced Friday as his pick for vice president. "She was very articulate and very well informed."
The selection of Palin surprised just about everyone in the political world, including
Fox. And like many Utahns, Fox said she was disappointed McCain didn't choose Mitt Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of the LDS Church.
Fox, who is attending her first convention as a delegate but went to two conventions as a child, supported Romney in his unsuccessful bid for the White House and wanted to see him on the ticket with McCain.
But Fox said Palin is a good second choice because the Alaska governor shares many of the same conservative values as Romney and the Utah delegation.
Palin has been hailed as strongly pro-life and is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, while Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, adopted some of his conservative views in recent years.
Nominating the first GOP woman for vice president will have historic significance for Fox and other Utahns. But Fox said she is more concerned about having a candidate prepared for the post.
"It doesn't matter who it is, as long as they are fit for the job," Fox said. "I think she is fit."
Another young Utah GOP delegate, Jessica Fawson, 22, however, is excited to have a woman rising to such a lofty political position because "as a young woman, there aren't a lot of women in politics" she can look up to.
More than that, Fawson said she likes that Palin comes from the same world that most Americans live.
"She is a normal person," she said. "She doesn't just relate to middle America. She is from middle America."
Fawson, who will be attending her first national political convention, also supported Romney. But she said that after hearing about Palin about a week ago, the Alaska governor was her second choice.
A big part of Fawson's decision is Palin's opposition to abortion. Fawson said the Alaska governor demonstrated her beliefs through actions, not just her words, by choosing to carry to term a baby with Down syndrome.
Palin's appeal extends beyond delegates who are just starting to come into their own politically. One of Utah's most prominent political women even if she is not elected to any position also was very supportive of Palin.
"Not only is history being made," first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman said, "but her story as a reformer, professional and mother complete with a special-needs baby and a son deploying to Iraq in the Army only serve to humanize her in ways that create a bond with every neighborhood in America."
Huntsman's husband, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., has worked with Palin through several governors' organizations. He recently turned over the chairmanship of the National Governor's Association's natural resource committee to Palin.
"She's a new-breed Republican that I love and that I respect," the governor said, calling her "a new-age public servant." Both Huntsman and Palin share an interest in ethics reform as well as in energy policy and are willing to work with Democrats.
Utah Republican Party Chairman Stan Lockhart said Palin is someone all Utahns can relate to, not just members of the GOP.
"She is one of us," Lockhart said. "She is a values-oriented soccer mom who got into public service in order to create a better future for her children."
Lockhart said the Utah delegation will end up being excited about Palin rather than disappointed about Romney's not being on the ballot this November.
"Mitt filled the bill," Lockhart said. "He gave McCain everything he needed except for one thing he was a man. And it may be this year, it needs to be a woman."