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McCain’s VP Pick; Gov. Sarah Palin

Posted by mattymoe on August 29, 2008

John McCain tossed a huge but risky surprise into the US race for the White House Friday when he unveiled the little-known governor from Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his vice presidential running mate.

The choice of the 44-year-old mother of five only two years into her first term running the oil-rich far northwest state, and with virtually no national political experience , was seen as a blatant bid to win over disgruntled supporters of failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But McCain, who presented Palin to the public at a midday rally here in Dayton, painted her as a talented and determined manager and an anti-corruption campaigner with impeccable conservative credentials.

“She’s got the grit, integrity, good sense, and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today,” McCain said.

“She stands up for what’s right and she doesn’t let anyone tell her to sit down. She’s fought oil companies and party bosses and do-nothing bureaucrats, and anyone who puts their interests before the people of whom she swore an oath to serve.”

The timing of the announcement was clearly designed to capture the attention away from the triumphant speech Thursday night by McCain’s Democratic rival, Barack Obama, as he accepted his party’s presidential nomination in front of 84,000 giddy supporters who had packed into a Denver sports stadium.

It came just days before the September 1-4 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, where McCain officially will be made the party’s nominee for the White House in the November 4 election.

Palin could appeal to the Republican’s grassroots conservative base, as she is strongly opposed to abortion and backs the powerful gun lobby.

She would help McCain maintain his image as a Republican party maverick: she gained popularity as a rebel crusading against corruption among fellow Alaskan Republicans.

And she could balance out concerns over the age of McCain, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Friday.

But unlike Clinton — the former first lady who Obama defeated in the Democratic primary nominating race — Palin has no national experience and has governed Alaska for just two years.

Obama and his vice presidential choice Senator Joe Biden quickly issued a statement calling Palin “an admirable person” who “will add a compelling new voice to this campaign.”

But at the same time, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton taunted the Republicans over Palin’s experience.

“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Burton said in a statement.

The McCain campaign immediately countered that Palin, as governor of Alaska, has a deep knowledge of energy issues, a key issue for an electorate hammered by high oil prices and other economic woes.

Palin “knows what it’s like to worry about mortgage payments and health care and the cost of gasoline and groceries,” McCain said.

“She leads a state that matters to every one of us — Alaska has significant energy resources and she has been a leader in the fight to make America energy independent,” he said.

The choice of Palin, who becomes only the second woman ever to join a major-party ticket for the presidency — Geraldine Ferraro was Democrat Walter Mondale‘s running mate in 1984 — immediately brought cheers from Republican leaders and conservatives who had been wary of McCain’s more centrist politics.

“By selecting a working mother with a track record of getting things done, Senator McCain has once again demonstrated his commitment to reforming Washington,” President George W. Bush said in a statement after calling Palin to wish her luck.

The influential conservative lobby the Family Research Council called Palin “an outstanding pick from the choices that were on the table.”

Governor Sarah Palin is an outspoken advocate for pro-family policies that energize social conservatives,” FRC head Tony Perkins said in a statement.

But political analysts said McCain’s choice, rejecting a shortlist of well-known politicians like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, independent Senator Joe Lieberman and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, was a chancy move.

Former Republican Presidential Candidate, Pat Buchanan, called the pick the “biggest political gamble in American political history.”

“It clearly makes it more difficult for McCain to criticize Obama’s experience,” said Professor Tom Baldino of Wilkes University, Pennsylvania.

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