Palin draws skepticism even in conservative South

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - John Thomas has lots of reasons to support John McCain for president. Like McCain, Thomas is a former Navy officer.

They're about the same age, and Thomas considers himself a political independent with a conservative bent.

But Thomas, a one-time supporter of President Bush, said McCain running mate Sarah Palin's recent interviews sealed his decision to vote for Democrat Barack Obama.

Even in the staunchly Republican South, Palin is facing deep skepticism about her qualifications heading into tonight's debate with her Democratic counterpart, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

The moderate Republican said Palin's selection was more about political strategy than substance.

But there's little chance that McCain and Palin will lose the Deep South.

A recent poll in Alabama showed McCain with a big lead over Obama, and the numbers are not much different in states like Mississippi and Georgia.

In 2004, Bush won Alabama 62-37 percent and Georgia 58-41.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-10-02-08 0934EDT