- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin unseated a sitting Republican governor in a primary by running against her own party establishment in Alaska. Now Mr. McCain hopes her magic can help him distance himself from the unpopular Republican administration in Washington.

If Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was the “Dick Cheney pick” — an older, experienced Washington hand — for Democratic nominee Barack Obama, then Mrs. Palin, a 44-year-old self-described “hockey mom” in just her second year in the governor’s chair, is Mr. McCain’s own version of Mr. Obama, a fresh face but a relative unknown on the national stage.

In choosing Mrs. Palin, Mr. McCain has selected someone who, if anything, may exceed his own zeal for busting pork-barrel government spending, and who gives him a chance for a do-over on his opposition to drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — should he want it.

Related story: McCain picks Palin as VP choice

She has sky-high approval ratings in her state and a compelling personal story: high school basketball standout; a mother of five, including a baby born in April with Down Syndrome; and strong conservative credentials that comes from a lifetime NRA membership and a passion for hunting and fishing.

Republican analysts also say she represented Mr. McCain’s best choice for wooing disaffected supporters of Democrat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, especially women, many of whom have been slow to warm up to Mr. Obama following their long and bruising primary battle. But whether disaffected feminists will flock to the strongly pro-life Mrs. Palin remains to be seen.

The major blemish on Mrs. Palin’s record so far — one already being cited by Democratic opposition researchers — is an ongoing investigation initiated by the Alaska legislature into the firing of a state trooper involved in a custody battle with Mrs. Palin’s sister.

But reaction from both the fiscal and social conservative wings of the Republican Party was swift and enthusiastic.

“At a time when many Republicans are still clinging to pork-barrel politics, Gov. Palin has quickly become a leader on this issue,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “She is a principled reformer who understands how badly wasteful spending has marred the Republican brand.”

David Jeffers, author of “Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide to Jesusland,” said she can unite suburban soccer moms, evangelicals and fiscal conservatives.

“Within a week they’re going to see how outstanding she is,” he said. “I’m excited about it. I think it was probably the best pick he could have made for the Republican Party.”

Some Democratic strategists praised the pick, an unexpected one in which Mr. McCain rejected more conventional running mate choices such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

But others said the choice clouded one of the Republicans’ main campaign themes: that the 47-year-old Mr. Obama, in his first term in the Senate, was too young and untested on the national and international stage to be president. How Mrs. Palin will fare in a debate with Mr. Biden, who is 31 years older and has chaired both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees, is another unknown.

The McCain campaign handled the logistics of the selection skillfully, using it to grab just enough attention without ruining Mr. Obama’s speech in Denver accepting Democrats’ presidential nomination.

All day Thursday there were rumors the selection might be announced about the time Mr. Obama was delivering his speech, but in the end Mr. McCain held off, allowing Mr. Obama to have his night. But the campaign immediately stepped in and sucked away attention Friday morning with speculation over his pick.

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