GOP Campaign Shifts Focus To Social Issues

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Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, left, smiles after introducing his Vice Presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Dayton, Ohio., Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Remember when the war and the economy were supposed to be the "big issues" in the presidential race? Not so fast.

CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts spoke with three Republican women this week. He asked, "Raise your hand if you consider yourself a 'values voter.'"

All three raised a hand.

The three women, all delegates from key swing state Colorado, like countless social conservatives across the country see a new champion in Sarah Palin.

"Show of hands if you were excited about John McCain before he picked Gov. Palin," Pitts asked.

Only one woman raised her hand slightly.

"And now?"

All raised a hand.

"People that were moderately interested before and wanted to vote against Obama are now rock solid," said Kendal Unruh, a socially conservative Republican.

For McCain, that enthusiasm could be vital.

According to the latest CBS News poll, 67 percent of Sen. Barack Obama's supporters say they're enthusiastic about their candidate, versus 25 percent of Sen. John McCain voters.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the selection of Palin could be a game-changer.

"The social conservative base is energized now as I don't think it has been since Ronald Reagan," Gingrich said.

With Republicans pushing "values issues," the Obama campaign is pushing back, escalating the battle in a new radio ad claiming: "As president, John McCain will make abortion illegal. We can't let John McCain take away our right to choose."

While a poll of RNC delegates shows more than 70 percent think abortion should not be allowed, except in cases of incest, rape or to save a woman's life, many in the party say they will not win on that issue alone.

"What I'm uncomfortable with is something I think America is uncomfortable with is how divisive things have gotten," said moderate Republican Kellie Ferguson.

But there are some in the party who welcome that with Gov. Palin?

"I know and I think it's a small faction, and I think trying to win on that issue alone and trying to win through divisive tactics is gonna ultimately hurt us," Ferguson said.