John McCain has known Sarah Palin since, well . . .

John McCain and his new running mate, Sarah Palin, spent some quality time together after Friday morning’s rally in Dayton, Ohio, when they boarded McCain’s bus for the six-hour ride to Pittsburgh. That’s a good thing. Because McCain and Palin are practically strangers.

At least that’s what the Alaska governor told a reporter two weeks ago. In an interview with the Washington newspaper Roll Call, Palin said she had met McCain only once or twice. She said she was introduced to McCain at the 2006 Republican Governors Assn. meeting.

The pair met again this week, according to McCain campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker. In a news release, Hazelbaker said Palin arrived with an aide in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Wednesday to meet McCain advisors Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter.

On Thursday morning, Palin met with Cindy McCain and John McCain at their home in Sedona, Ariz. That, according to Hazelbaker, is where McCain made his big revelation: “At approximately 11:00 a.m. Thursday August 28, 2008, John McCain formally invited Governor Sarah Palin to join the Republican ticket as the vice presidential nominee on the deck of the McCain family home.”

Palin a hit with conservatives . . .

McCain made strides in overcoming the reluctant attitude many social conservatives long have held toward him with his strong performance at the Saddleback Church forum earlier this month.


Now, with his selection of Palin as his running mate, he may have fully brought them aboard the Straight Talk Express.

Typical of the effusive response to the Palin pick was a statement from Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition:

“At a time when Americans want change in Washington, Sara [sic] Palin is a fresh and energetic voice joining the debate. I am thrilled with Sen. McCain’s choice and I look forward to having this strong and independent woman who brings a lot of substance to the campaign.

“It is interesting to hear all of these liberals whine about foreign policy experience. Where were they when the Democrats were nominating Bill Clinton, a governor of Arkansas, to be President? How about Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from rural Georgia?

“The audacity of their hypocrisy is galling.

“This was a very wise move by Sen. McCain. He has done what Sen. [Barack] Obama refused to do -- pick a qualified woman to be his running mate. Instead, Obama picked a Washington insider who has been part of the old guard of radical liberals who are still trying to raise taxes, protect the abortion industry and pack our federal courts with activist judges.

“This move -- the day after Obama’s Greek Temple speech -- has sucked the air out of Obama’s 15 minutes of fame. I predict that Obama will end up back in the Senate humiliated by a devastating defeat.”

The coalition promises further comment on Palin during the Republican National Convention this week in St. Paul, Minn.; presumably, the group will correctly spell her first name.

. . . but on the left, not so much

As an unswerving member of the left wing of the Democratic Party, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California wasn’t going to be much impressed with whomever McCain selected as a running mate. Still, her reaction to the pick of Palin is noteworthy for its sharpness, especially given Boxer’s commitment to feminist causes. Here’s Boxer’s statement:

“The vice president is a heartbeat away from becoming president, so to choose someone with not one hour’s worth of experience on national issues is a dangerous choice.

“If John McCain thought that choosing Sarah Palin would attract Hillary Clinton voters, he is badly mistaken.

“The only similarity between her and Hillary Clinton is that they are both women. On the issues, they could not be further apart.

“Sen. McCain had so many other options if he wanted to put a woman on his ticket, such as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe -- they would have been an appropriate choice compared to this dangerous choice.

“In addition, Sarah Palin is under investigation by the Alaska state Legislature, which makes this more incomprehensible.”

Snowe, considered by many in the GOP a RINO -- Republican in name only -- was never a vice presidential prospect. Hutchison’s name surfaced as a strong possibility, but her support of abortion rights probably made her a nonstarter for the McCain camp.

Oprah cries her eyelashes off

Daytime talk show diva and billionaire businesswoman Oprah Winfrey, who played a crucial early primary role in raising the prominence of her fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, was so moved by her man’s Democratic acceptance speech Thursday night that she cried off her false eyelashes.

Winfrey, who had previously said she would play a small behind-the-scenes role in Obama’s speech to 84,000 close friends at Invesco Field, was herself mobbed by enthusiastic fans after the address.

“I thought the speech was transcendent,” she said. That’s “what I thought. I thought the speech made us all feel we can do better, be better, walk taller, be higher. I just have never experienced anything like that.” And she said “ANYTHING” as if it was all capitalized.

Winfrey hosted several huge rallies for Obama at the start of the primary season in Iowa and South Carolina, which he won, and New Hampshire, which he lost. As reported here in The Ticket, her daytime TV audience, while remaining the largest, did shrink after her first involvement in partisan politics.

Many women expressed strong disappointment that she had abandoned the first serious female candidate for the White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in favor of Obama.

Did Obama win the election as a result of the speech? “I think what he won was everybody wanting to go out and make sure he wins the election,” she said.

Then came the fashion admission: “I cried my eyelashes off just when he walked out.

“What was the best part? Every part of it. Everything he said. I thought it was the promise of democracy fulfilled tonight.”

“You can make him win!” an admirer shouted.


Excerpted from The Times’ political blog Top of the Ticket, at ticket. Frederick reported from Denver, Malcolm from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Kate Linthicum and Peter Nicholas contributed.