Seeing an older male paired with a much younger female sets off red flags
in the heads of many women, so that for McCain and Palin to appear side-by-side
may be problematic.
It's especially bad for McCain, since he openly admits that he dumped his badly injured wife for a healthy, young, fertile, rich one. If he had lied about his running around it would be different; all the conservatives want is a comforting lie, but in his arrogance he didn't. So now the philandering male appears by the side of the attractive youngish woman who reproduced just this year.
The McCain camp correctly assumed that the Republicans would be happy to have an attractive woman as a candidate. But because of her baby and her daughter's pregnancy, the sexuality of Palin's public image is very strong. The Republican men are excited to have an attractive woman to look at after years of "Dick" Cheney and many are raised to be traditional and see women primarily as sex objects. The women have learned that if they are attractive and of reproductive age (and therefore suitable subjects for male fantasies), they will be able to advance in their conservative careers more easily than otherwise. Thus we have Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.
But there is a very serious potential drawback, as de Waal notes. Because conservative women are so strongly encouraged/coerced to adopt traditional roles of dependence and submission, they also must deal with the fears that come with them. A dependent woman must constantly worry that she will be abandoned for someone her husband, the sole bread-winner, finds more attractive. Seeing the philandering McCain next to the attractive, sexual Palin rings some very distressing bells for a lot of conservative women.