DAYTON, Ohio — Republican Sen. John McCain on Friday picked little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, reassuring anxious social and fiscal conservatives but muting his own attacks on Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama as too inexperienced to become commander in chief. The stunning choice sets up a truly historic presidential race — on Nov. 4, Americans will either elect the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president in the 44-year-old Mrs. Palin.
Mrs. Palin, 44, still in her first term as governor, brings strong conservative credentials — she opposes abortion rights and gay marriage, supports increased domestic drilling for oil, is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association and has a son in the U.S. Army who deploys to Iraq next month.
“I’ve spent the last few months looking for a running mate who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people that are counting on us,” Mr. McCain told 15,000 supporters waving red, white and blue glow sticks in a college basketball arena.
“When you get to know her, you’re going to be as impressed as I am,” he said. “She’s got the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today.”
For her part, Mrs. Palin, flanked by her husband and four of her five children, was poised at the podium as she stepped into the national spotlight, delivering her speech from a TelePrompTer in a fired-up voice.
“Some of life’s greatest opportunities come unexpectedly, and this is definitely the case today,” she said with a smile.
“This is a moment when principles and political independence matter a lot more than just the party lines. … This is a moment when great causes can be won and great threats overcome.”
The announcement highlighted one of the more exuberant events of the McCain campaign to date, with the crowd clearly excited by the history-making pick. Supporters serenaded Mr. McCain not once, but three times with choruses of “Happy Birthday to You” to mark his 72nd birthday.
But because the McCain campaign kept the selection secret until word leaked out just a couple of hours before the noontime rally, many Republicans were caught flat-footed, unprepared to talk about the mostly unknown governor.
“I dont know much about her,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who was mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate, told CNN this morning. “I don’t know Sarah Palin.”
Related story:ANALYSIS: McCain picks Gov. Palin
Cutting into Mr. Obama’s momentum less than 12 hours after the Democrat delivered his nomination acceptance speech before 84,000 cheering supporters in Denver, Mr. McCain’s choice soothed many skeptical conservatives, who had threatened open revolt as the Republican maverick toyed with the idea of choosing pro-choice candidates such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent.
Numerous Republicans, including influential conservatives, were buoyant.
Focus on the Family President James Dobson told The Washington Times he now fully supports Mr. McCain, after previously vowing not to support the GOP candidate.View Entire Story
Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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