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Palin the VP Choice

McCain Picks Palin as Running Mate
McCain Picks Palin as Running Mate

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Gregg Erickson
Columnist and Reporter, Anchorage Daily News and Editor at Large, Alaska Budget Report
Friday, August 29, 2008; 3:30 PM

Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain introduced first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate here Friday at a raucous rally before thousands of his supporters.

Photo Gallery: McCain Picks Palin as Running Mate

Citing her "strong principles, fighting spirit and deep compassion,'" McCain said the 44-year-old Palin is "exactly who I need; she's exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second."

Gregg Erickson, columnist and reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and editor at large for the Alaska Budget Report, was online Friday, Aug. 29, at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss Palin as the vice presidential choice, her term as governor of Alaska and his coverage of her in the Alaska state house.

A transcript follows.

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Gregg Erickson: Hi. I'm Gregg Erickson. I'm an economist, columnist and reporter in Juneau, where I've been covering Sarah Palin since November 2006 when she was elected governor. I grew up in Alaska and have been covering the legislature here since 1991. I look forward to fielding your questions.

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Arlington, Va.: A couple of questions: Where does Gov. Palin stand on allowing oil drilling in ANWR? What is her overall stance on environmental issues? What is the latest on the investigation into the firing of her ex-brother-in-law who was a state trooper in Alaska?

Gregg Erickson: Palin, like about 60 percent of Alaska voters, favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Her environmental credentials are, at best, mixed. She favors what we in Alaska call "predator control," including, gif necessary, the hunting of wolves from the air. Just recently her Dept. of Fish and Game pulled some wolf cubs from their den and shot them as part of a program to improve moose survival.

She also opposes the listing of the polar bear as an endangered species.

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Baltimore, Md.: What are Governor Palin's three greatest strengths? What are her three greatest weaknesses?

Gregg Erickson: She is smart, vivacious and energetic; she tends to oversimplify complex issues, has had difficulty delegating authority, and clearly has some difficulty distinguishing the line between her public responsibilities and private wishes.

She is under legislative investigation regarding the last issue, the so-called "troopergate."

Gregg Erickson: Gregg Erickson: She is smart, vivacious and energetic; she tends to oversimplify complex issues, has had difficulty delegating authority, and clearly has difficulty distinguishing the line between her public responsibilities and private wishes. She is under legislative investigation on this, the so-called "troopergate" issue, in which she is said to have used improper influence to try to get her sister's ex-husband fired from the state troopers.

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Washington, D.C.: I was an apathetic McCain supporter until this. Now, I am energized. She does not have much experience but she is VP not POTUS. She seems smart, tenacious and just what McCain needs to beat the rap of "more of the same." This is definitely not "more of the same."

Gregg Erickson: You are right: smart and tenacious are good words to describe our governor. She was in Texas this spring when her water broke. Rather than staying there to have the baby, she jumped on a plan for an 11-hour flight back to Alaska, so her baby would be a "Alaskan-born."

It will be interesting to see what happens when she confronts the national media regarding her positions on Roe v. Wade, airborne wolf hunting, etc.

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Eagle River, Ak.: Morning, Gregg! I've suddenly being hearing a number of pundits credit Gov. Palin with stopping the "bridge to nowhere." This isn't how I remember it, though -- in fact, I seem to recall that she was initially in favor of the bridge. Could you clarify? Thanks!

Gregg Erickson: She did curtail state support of the "bridge to nowhere" connecting Ketchikan with its island airport. But contrary to her statement today in Dayton, OH, she didn't send the federal money back. It's available for use in other projects elsewhere.

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Illinois: Is it true that Palin favors teaching creationism in public schools?

Gregg Erickson: I don't know about that, but she said during her campaign for governor that she favored students being exposed to all sides of the evolution argument.

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Claverack, N.Y.: This afternoon was my first exposure to Gov. Palin' speaking style; would you consider it typical of her style? I don't want this to seem pejorative, but she seems kind of soft-spoken. We're used to politicians speaking grandly and boomingly on the national stage; the governor, with respect, looks like she came here directly from a PTA meeting.

Gregg Erickson: That's the way she usually talks--as if she is at the PTA. It's one of her more charming characteristics.

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Washington, D.C.: An AP photo caption at today's event listed Palin's children as "daughters Piper, Willow, Bristol, and son Trig." Are those really their names?

Gregg Erickson: Yes, really. Piper is named after the light aircraft.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: It's clear from your responses that you don't particularly like her (I'm not speaking personally, but politically.) How do you explain her high approval ratings?

Gregg Erickson: I think she did a great job in taking on the oil industry, that has had a lock on Alaska politics since 1981 She is also stood up against the corruption in Alaska politics long before it was fashionable to do so. . I think those things resonate with many Alaskans beside myself.

Her approval ratings are high--65 percent, or so--but down from 80 percent earlier in her term. Most Alaskan's haven't watched her as closely as most reporters or legislators. If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties.

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Sun Prairie, Wisc.: Good afternoon, Mr. Erickson. When I heard the name of Sarah Palin I thought of William Miller, Geraldine Ferraro, and Jack Kemp -- running mates chosen by candidates running against popular presidents, who knew they were almost certain to lose and filled out their tickets with a view toward keeping at least their own party's base together.

No name ID. Little relevant experience. No past relationship with the presidential candidate. From a small state that Sen. McCain would have to go into a coma to lose. But, Gov. Palin is a strong social conservative, appealing to the kind of George Bush Republican who has never liked McCain very much.

This is a choice that makes a lot more sense if one assumes McCain has no chance of winning this election. Do you agree?

Gregg Erickson: The only way I can figure that it makes sense for McCain is he believes his campaign is in big trouble, and hopes this very unconventional choice will give his candidacy much needed appeal women voters and those from the religious right who have been not quite comfortable with his credentials as a social conservative.

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Arlington, Va.: I hear that Gov. Palin is a moderate on gay rights, in that she vetoed some anti-gay legislation up there. Where does she stand on same sex civil marriage?

Gregg Erickson: She is strongly against it.

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Jarrettsville, Md.: Why did she want her ex-brother-in-law fired?

Gregg Erickson: The child custody fight continued after the divorce, and got very nasty, on both sides.

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Don't forget Track!: The earlier poster's question about Palin's children was incomplete --- She has two sons, Track and Trig.

Gregg Erickson: You are correct.

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Washington, D.C.: Why don't reporters and legislators have a high opinion of the governor?

Gregg Erickson: It is clear that she has not paid much attention to the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises. She seems to be of the view that politics should be all rather simple. That often appeals to the wider public, but frustrates those who see themselves as laboring in the less glamorous parts of the vineyard.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you think Hillary supporters will vote for McCain now just because there's a woman on the ticket -- even though she's about as opposite as Hillary as a candidate could be?

Gregg Erickson: As I replied to another question, the only way I can figure that it makes sense is that McCain believes his campaign is in big trouble, and hopes this very unconventional choice will give his candidacy much needed appeal women voters and those from the religious right who have been not quite comfortable with his credentials as a social conservative.

Appealing to Hillary supporters by choosing someone opposed to any abortion, rights seems odd to me.

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Washington, D.C.;: You wrote: "If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties." What do they know about her that the general population does not?

Gregg Erickson: One example: The Republican chair of the Alaska State House Finance budget subcommittee on Heath and Medicaid says he can't find anyone in Palin's executive office who cares about helping bring that budget under control. He is furious with her about that.

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(A different) Washington, D.C.: What is Gov. Palin's campaigning style? Is she a good campaigner?

Gregg Erickson: Yes she is a very good campaigner. I'm not so sure how she would do, however, in a campaign controlled by someone else.

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Wheaton, Md.: Why is she experienced enough to lead our nation as president if McCain were unable to do so?

Gregg Erickson: I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president.

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Bethesda, Md.: I noticed that Palin criticized the Supreme Court's limitation on punitive damages with respect to the Exxon Valdez incident. As a conservative, you would think she would be in favor of this kind of "tort reform" and limit on judicial power? How has she justified her disagreement on limitation on damages, or is it simple parochialism?

Gregg Erickson: No Alaska politician and very few Alaskans support the Exxon position. Many would like to see the corporate death penalty levied against Exxon. Take their corporate charter away and sell off their assets.

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Alexandria, Va.: Has Governor Palin ever traveled outside the U.S.?

Gregg Erickson: She went to college (journalism degree) in Idaho. She's been to Iraq, to visit the troops.

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Alexandria, Va.: Knowing what you do of Gov. Palin, do you think this could be a case where the more the American people know about her, the more impressed and charmed they'll be; or, could getting to know her better be trouble?

Gregg Erickson: It will certainly have both effects. What's not to admire about a straight-talking soccer mom who suddenly finds herself in the running for vice-president. It's like a TV sitcom plot. The reality of the national scrutiny will be another thing, however.

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Washington, D.C.: What should we expect from her during the VP debates?

Gregg Erickson: I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq.

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Hudson Valley, N.Y.: Who takes care of her children while she's busy being governor? It's pretty rare to see a woman in public office with such young kids.

Gregg Erickson: Good question. There hasn't been much reporting on that. She does carry the baby around, and has a crib and play pen in her office in Juneau. She has a big, close family, and I assume they may help out.

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Fairfax, Va.: Why didn't she want polar bears added to the Endangered Species List?

Gregg Erickson: Concern that it might inhibit oil development off Alaska's Arctic Ocean coastline was clearly a factor. Some Alaska Native interests in that area also opposed the listing.

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Germantown, Md.: Is it true that Gov. Palin is skeptical about global warming?

Gregg Erickson: Yes. Although she has not been outspoken about that. Alaska's national politicians have been allied with Sen. Imhoff, but have had to reverse course rather dramatically on that as the effects of climate change began to show up so dramatically in Alaska.

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Silver Spring, Md.: You say she "took on" the oil companies, but that she favors drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. In what ways did she stand up to Big Oil, and in what ways might she be in their pocket?

Gregg Erickson: She is strongly in favor of oil development. She just wants the state to get a bigger share of the profits, and wants the companies to develop their Alaska resources faster than the companies consider profitable or prudent.

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Memphis, Tenn.: Why do you hint that the campaign must be in trouble?

Gregg Erickson: I said if that is McCain's view, then the choice of Palin could make sense. Otherwise, why take the risk on someone he obviously doesn't know well, and whose appeal to the national electorate is unknown, and who brings only three electoral votes. There may be other reasons, good or bad, for his choice, but I can't guess what they would be.

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Gainesville, Va.: What is Governor Palin's religious background?

Gregg Erickson: She is fundamentalist protestant. I think she has been affiliated with different congregations.

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Gregg Erickson: This is Gregg Erickson, signing off. It's been an interesting and fun experience doing this. If anyone really needs another answer feel free to e-mail me at gerickso@alaska.com.

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