ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A loyal Democrat, Kenny Powers never shared Sarah Palin's conservative politics. But the United Way organizer confesses a fondness for the governor who paired a folksy charm with scorn for Alaska's Republican old guard.
"She was such a breath of fresh air," he says.
That was then. Nearing the end of a bruising campaign, the Republican vice presidential candidate has seen her appeal to her party's conservative base feed speculation about a future national campaign at the same time increasing numbers of others recoil from her.
"She changed her personality," Powers, 55, said at a downtown espresso shop, where the front window features a Palin portrait over the boldface word "Hype."
"It makes me wonder whether I knew her."
Palin introduced herself to a nation as a conventional homemaker eager to shatter convention _ the hockey mom roughing up the power brokers, a reformer with a bipartisan streak. But that maverick image _ along with her poll numbers _ has been scuffed, if not reshaped.
The designer eyeglasses are the same, but it's clear many voters outside the Republican base are looking at her through a changed lens. A woman who ascended to power in Alaska by challenging the Republican establishment now represents it on the national ticket. In her coming-out convention speech, Palin said, "I took on the old politics as usual," but in two months on the national political stage she has encountered questions about expenses and trips charged to taxpayers, as well as her account of actions she took as governor.
Duke University political scientist David Rohde says Palin has alienated independents at the very time the Republican ticket needs to attract votes from the political center.
is a prime example of how McCain might be getting a small boost but