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Before Speech, Running Mate Gets Some Coaching

McCain and Palin Begin Joint Campaign
McCain and Palin Begin Joint Campaign (Melina Mara - The Washington Post)

Still, Palin will take the stage Wednesday night amid a series of questions about her political résumé that have, at a minimum, created distractions from the convention message the McCain campaign has sought to present.

On Tuesday, the McCain campaign angrily countered reports that Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, producing records showing that she has been a registered Republican since the early 1980s. Later in the day, media reports revealed that her husband, Todd Palin, was registered as a member of the party until 2002.

Alaskans continued to question her position on the "Bridge to Nowhere," a nearly $400 million span connecting the small town of Ketchikan with a remote island to make transportation to its airport easier. Palin seemed to indicate that she supported the bridge while campaigning for governor in that region in 2006, but last fall she ended the project because cost overruns far exceeded the initial $223 million that was allocated.

While McCain's backers are comfortable that Palin's record meshes neatly with his when it comes to challenging the status quo -- Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said the governor "has shown guts and toughness on a central theme in this campaign in a way that will resonate with the American public" -- they are working on how to bolster her foreign policy bona fides.

Palin has rarely traveled overseas: Last summer, as governor, she journeyed to Canada on one trip and to Germany, Iraq and Kuwait on another, and Comella said she may have traveled to Mexico once on a personal trip.

"Obviously the governor of Alaska spends very little time on foreign policy," Davis said, though he added that if something were to happen to McCain, "I think she's got the judgment to do the things as commander in chief that John McCain would think are the right things to do."

Graham, who lobbied hard for McCain to choose their mutual friend Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) as his running mate, said Palin would be able to handle foreign relations in McCain's absence as long as she relied on his staff.

"She can do fine in foreign policy because of the infrastructure we have around us. She's smart and she will learn over time," he said, adding that when it comes to selecting a vice president, "there is no perfect person. If we could have found someone who's an expert in everything, we would have picked 'em, right?"

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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