Palin has put support for creationism among GOP leaders on the media and public agenda. Everywhere in the news, GOP officials are being asked their position on the matter and in their replies they are sending the strongest of signals to a partisan public that support for creationism is part of the GOP DNA.
From a Washington Post article on how Palin is energizing the Evangelical base, Cathie Adams, the Texas GOP national committeewoman describes why she thinks Palin is so exciting:
Cathie Adams, Texas's incoming national committeewoman, said she is elated to have someone like herself running for one of the nation's highest offices. "It's very exciting to have a person who holds the faith," Adams said after arriving in St. Paul. "I'm sure this is a woman who believes, as I do, let's present evolution and creationism on a level playing field, because when that happens, we know education is happening, not brainwashing, not politics in the classroom."
I think its important to note that GOP support is very low amongst the traditionally black churches who also advocate creationism - I think religious African Americans as a group are amongst the lowest in accepting evolution according to various polls.
I suspect that creationism isn't that big an issue to the GOP as a whole but the trend you note above is merely a symptom of the religious right's increasing influence. Creationism is only one of several religious right standards (the others being pro-life, anti-homosexual and 'family values').
This is truly sad. Ms. Adams not only displays here her ignorance of science, but also the degree to which she is lied. She trusts the opinions of people who can be demonstrated to be lying (or repeating lies) about science. About what else have they lied? She'll never know, nor does she seem to care. Some things cannot easily be verified (such as the best fiscal policy for general prosperity?). But others can be confirmed or refuted with a high degree of confidence, and she doesn't care. I sometimes think I am of another species than most of my fellow humans. A ring species, perhaps, with the reality-based culture at one end, and at the other... the others.
I ran her quote through my translation program and what she really said was; "My constituents believe in this stupidity and if I want to remain living off of the public dole, I need to say that."
Creationists like to put forward this stereotypically 'postmodern' view- that, about evolution at least, there aren't really facts that are or aren't true, but just differing worldviews. And the effects of these worldviews are what's important, not their truth.
Of course in their own minds the 'facts' are clear- they're right, by incontrovertible revelation, and we're just wrong. But the way they address the debate isn't about true and false, but good and bad.
The one thing that McCain had going for my vote was that he says he'll pick qualified advisors. So where were thay when he picked Sarah Palin? Sorry. Any chance for my vote just drifted away.