Opinion: John McCain picks Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin as his VP


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The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, has pulled a fast one on his Democratic opponents, who spent much of the last 19 months arguing over whether they’d be the party to have a female on their 2008 presidential ticket.

The rumor is true. As The Ticket reported just before dawn this morning, minutes ago, McCain confirmed that his vice presidential running mate is Sarah Palin, the first female governor of Alaska and the first woman on a national GOP ticket.

And hear this: The 44-year-old Palin, a former city councilwoman, Alaskan mayor, star high school basketball player and beauty queen, is a Republican political maverick (does this sound familiar on a McCain ticket?).


She overthrew her own state party’s corrupt establishment in 2005-06 to run without its support and win on a reform ticket against a Democratic former governor, Tony Knowles. See video below.

She’s been enjoying statewide popularity ratings of 70% to 80%, not least for her down-to-earth touches, like selling the previous governor’s jet plane to fly commercially and driving herself to work in the family Jetta. She’s worked against government pork barrel projects; again, a familiar phrase.

Palin, the first Alaskan governor born after statehood, was actually born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho. She is the mother of five (see family photo below) and is married to a native Alaskan, Todd Palin, who is a seasonal fisherman and an oil field worker offseason. He races snowmobiles on vacation.

The governor is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., an ardent hunter and outdoorswoman (her family has its own float plane) and is a sure bet to please the antiabortion wing of the Republican Party.

When prenatal genetic testing of their fifth child showed he had Down syndrome last spring, the couple went ahead with the birth in May and now talk of him as the joy of their life. (See photo below.) One of ...

... their other four children entered the Army and deploys to Iraq next month.

Palin is also an ardent advocate of developing Alaskan natural oil resources, having recently signed a bill to establish a new trans-Alaska gas pipeline to deliver energy to the lower 48 states.

In the face of opposition from large domestic oil companies, which have ruled Alaska state politics for many years, Palin supported the 1,700-mile gas line proposed by a Canadian firm.


She also likes to point out that Alaska was admitted to the Union 50 years ago in large part for its trove of natural resources, much of them now locked up, while the country sends billions to other oil-rich nations.

She notes that while the controversial Arctic Natural Wildlife Preserve is roughly 19 million acres of protected federal land, the area actually proposed for oil development with directional drilling is smaller than LAX.

When The Ticket first mentioned Palin as a McCain VP prospect back in June, Palin pooh-poohed the idea as ‘not this time around.’ But, obviously, the Arizona senator saw an opportunity in partnering with a fresh, non-Washington face, a conservative chief executive who enacted property tax cuts as a mayor and who addresses the lingering doubts some conservatives have about McCain.

She also happens to be female and might well attract some of those disappointed women among the 18 million voters who chose Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

With women making up about 52% of the electorate, she could also appeal to them.

There was some concern in recent weeks that an investigation into an attempt by the governor’s office to have an individual state trooper fired could derail Palin’s VP chances. The trooper in question had been involved in a contentious divorce with Palin’s younger sister and reportedly threatened others. So far, independent investigators have found it was Palin staffers who made the contacts and Palin knew nothing of their efforts.

Though new to national politics, Palin has proven a quick learner and is not shy using her elbows under the basket. While leading her high school girls team to a championship as a point guard, the future governor earned the nickname ‘Sarah Barracuda.’

— Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Top and middle, Office of the Alaska Governor; bottom, Al Grillo / Associated Press

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