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McCain Introduces Alaska Governor Palin as Running Mate
Aides to Obama said they were starting to prepare talking points to question McCain's choice. With 18 months in office and little foreign policy experience -- or experience of any kind -- Palin would be, in the words of one senior Obama adviser, "a gift."
Jill Hazelbaker, a McCain campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement that Palin "has a record of accomplishment that Senator Obama simply cannot match. Governor Palin has spent her time in office shaking up government in Alaska and actually achieving results -- whether it's taking on corruption, passing ethics reform or stopping wasteful spending and the 'bridge to nowhere.' Senator Obama has spent his time in office running for president."
Howard Wolfson, the former communications director for Clinton, said Palin could peel away some votes from Obama.
"Both campaigns seemed to have decided that Hillary Clinton's 18 millions voters represent a key swing bloc in this election -- both Barack Obama's speech and John McCain's pick were at least partially aimed at them," Wolfson said in an e-mail.
But even some former Clinton supporters said Palin would not automatically draw disenchanted women voters -- and would face fierce pushback from the Obama campaign over her conservative social views.
"I know Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a phone interview with NBC.
"McCain clearly sees the power of women voters in this election but has just as clearly failed to support any of the issues that they care about," said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of Emily's List, a Democratic group that promotes women candidates who favor abortion rights. "His choice for vice president only reinforces that failure."
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) compared Palin's choice to George H.W. Bush's choice in 1988 of Dan Quayle, a GOP senator from Indiana, and Walter Mondale's decision in 1984 to pick Geraldine Ferraro, then a Democratic member of Congress from New York.
"She proved to be a disaster as a running mate and a campaigner. She was just absolutely awful," Clyburn told a radio station in his state. "I think it is very risky for McCain to do this, but it may be all he has left."
Democrats began quickly scouring Palin's past. They pointed out that she had once raised the sales tax to support construction of a recreation center in her city. And they noted that Palin has been accused of improperly using her office to have her ex-brother-in-law fired from his state trooper's job.
"She's under investigation right now," the Democrat said.
Shear and Branigin reported from Washington. Staff writers Dan Balz and Anne E. Kornblut in Denver contributed to this report.