One of the best parts of C-SPAN is the way it shows everything at an event. For example, it will spend a half-hour at a political picnic in New Hampshire in the summer of 2007, as potential candidates drop by to court a handful of voters. It's a great way to see the candidates in action, as well as hear what the voters are thinking.
The same applies to book signings too. C-SPAN recently was in Cincinnati, where camera were ready for an appearance by Sarah Palin at a Barnes & Noble. The store had closed early to non-ticket holders for autographs in order get ready for the former Governor, and the cameras even shot people trying to get in the building to try to buy a magazine. ("Sorry, come back in five hours.")
Before Palin even showed up, some of those waiting for her were interviewed. And it was fascinating to watch those conversations. In fact, it probably was more interesting than listening to Palin, who kept the chit-chat to a minimum.
The parade of people interviewed were all women, which I don't think was a coincidence. Those in line seemed to say something along the lines of "She's one of us" every chance they got.
That raises the question, is this a good way to determine your favorite politician? I would argue that it doesn't.
When it comes to my representatives in government, I don't want them to be my equals. I'd prefer them to be smarter and better-informed than I am, with well-thought-out positions. In other words, I lean toward representatives who use their own good judgment on the issues of the day, and not do something because it's popular. There's a balance here, of course, but I'm willing to give representatives the benefit of the doubt if they make an effort.
One of the best political discussions I've heard in the past few years was a forum featuring Mario Cuomo and Newt Gingrich out of New York City. You couldn't find two more different viewpoints, but both men presented those viewpoints extremely well after what was obviously a lot of thought.
I don't think you'd get that sort of depth out of Palin. A friend once told me that Palin reminded her of a woman who shows up at every PTA or Board of Education meeting across the country, a woman who knows just enough to be wrong. That's why (in part) for me to get enthusiastic for someone like Palin, but there are some women in Cincinnati who definitely have the right to disagree with me.
After all, I'm not one of them.