McCain Picks Alaska Governor; Palin First Woman on GOP Ticket

After accepting the GOP nomination in St. Paul, Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, tour around the country.
By Robert Barnes and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 30, 2008

DAYTON, Ohio, Aug. 29 -- Sen. John McCain confounded conventional wisdom Friday by announcing first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, a decision that guarantees that either an African American or a woman will ascend to the White House for the first time in history next year.

The senator from Arizona lived up to his maverick reputation, bypassing former rivals and more experienced governors to choose the little-known Palin, 44, as the person "who can best help me shake up Washington."

The self-described "hockey mom" brings a blue-collar conservatism and strong antiabortion views to the ticket and appeals to a party base sometimes suspicious of McCain. She made an immediate pitch to female voters, especially those who had supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries, saying that her selection "could help shatter the glass ceiling once and for all."

But she is also less than two years into her term as governor, and her only previous political experience came as mayor of the town of Wasilla, which has a population of about 6,700. Democrats immediately seized on her lack of political experience, noting that McCain, who turned 72 on Friday, will be confirmed next week as the oldest first-time presidential nominee in history.

After a raucous rally here before what the campaign said were 15,000 supporters -- the largest gathering of McCain's campaign -- the two spent six hours together. They traveled by bus to Pittsburgh, ingratiating themselves to Ohioans as they bought Ohio State Buckeye paraphernalia and stopped for ice cream at a roadside stand.

The trip provided valuable bonding time for two people who acknowledge they barely know each other.

McCain met Palin at a governor's conference in February, and did not see her again until she secretly flew to Arizona on Wednesday night. After a phone interview with the senator on Sunday night, she arrived in the state three days later for a session with McCain's two top lieutenants.

She met with McCain's wife, Cindy, on Thursday morning at the couple's Sedona ranch, then McCain joined them and offered her the job on the deck of the house around 11 a.m. Thursday.

While Palin, pronounced PAY-lin, had been mentioned as a dark-horse candidate for the job, she was never described as being on the shortlist under consideration by McCain. Those who were -- including former presidential rival Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- had spent months doing surrogate duty for McCain around the country, something Palin had not been called on to do.

There were reports of bruised feelings, especially because the McCain campaign's ironclad resolve to keep news of the pick from leaking meant some of the finalists were not told they were not chosen until the last minute.

McCain and Democratic rival Barack Obama, opposites in so many ways, took dramatically different paths in making their vice presidential selections. Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois who is battling the charge that he lacks the experience for the job, chose 65-year-old Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a 35-year member of the Senate and a foreign policy expert.

McCain, a war hero and world traveler who has served in Congress for more than a quarter-century, selected a woman who has no national or international experience and is younger than two of his children, but who he said shares his belief in reform and relishes the role of outsider.

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