August 30, 2008
The New York Times
By Michale Cooper and Elisabeth Bumiller
Palin, 44, a social conservative, former union member and mother of five who has been governor for two years, was on none of the widely discussed McCain campaign short lists for vice president. In selecting her, McCain reached far outside the Washington Beltway in an election year in which the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, is running on a platform of change.
“She’s not from these parts, and she’s not from Washington, but when you get to know her, you’re going to be as impressed as I am,” McCain told a midday rally of 15,000 people in a basketball arena here shortly before Palin, with her husband and four of her children, strode out onto the stage.
Within moments, Palin made an explicit appeal to the disappointed supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by praising not only Clinton but also the only other woman in American history who has been on a presidential ticket, Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s running mate for the Democratic nomination in 1984.
“Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” Palin said to huge applause. Palin and McCain then embarked on a bus tour across Ohio and north into western Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, a route that took in a wide swath of the central battleground in this year’s presidential campaign.
McCain’s pick, Palin, who opposes abortion, played especially well among evangelicals and other social conservatives, who have always viewed McCain warily and who have been jittery in recent weeks because of reports that McCain was considering naming a running mate who favors abortion rights.
The McCain campaign sees her as a kindred spirit to McCain, particularly in her history of taking heat from fellow Republicans for bucking them on issues and spotlighting their ethical failings. Like McCain, her political profile is built in part on her opposition to questionable government spending projects.
But they differ on a number of policies. Palin opposed McCain on one of the most prominent Alaskan issues: She supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and McCain opposes it, much to the consternation of some Republicans. McCain’s environmental policy accepts that global warming is driven by man-made pollution; Palin has said she is not convinced. A spokeswoman for Palin, Maria Comella, said, “Governor Palin not only stands with John McCain in his belief that global warming is a critical issue that must be addressed, but she has been a leader in addressing climate change.”
Palin, a former mayor of the small town of Wasilla, an Anchorage suburb, first rose to prominence as a whistle-blower uncovering ethical misconduct in state government. Her selection amounted to a gamble that an infusion of new leadership — and the novelty of the Republican Party’s first female candidate for vice president — would more than compensate for the risk that Palin could undercut one of the McCain campaign’s central arguments, that Obama is too inexperienced to be president.
Democrats and at least some shocked Republicans questioned the judgment of McCain, who has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that his running mate should have the qualifications to immediately step into the role of commander-in-chief.
McCain’s words on the matter have had more than usual resonance this year because of his age — he turned 72 on Friday, and hopes to be the oldest person ever elected to a first term — and his history with skin cancer.
Palin appears to have traveled very little outside the United States. In July 2007, she had to get a passport before she visited members of the Alaska National Guard stationed in Kuwait, according to her deputy communications director, Sharon Leighow. She also visited wounded troops in Germany during that trip.
McCain’s announcement of Palin came in the immediate afterglow that Democrats were enjoying from their nomination of Obama, and for one news cycle at least, as Republicans intended, Palin effectively muffled the news coverage of Obama’s acceptance speech to 80,000 people at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Thursday night.
Obama wished her well in a call from his campaign bus.
“He also wished her good luck, but not too much luck,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior strategist to Obama.
Obama’s fellow Democrats were considerably less welcoming, and most said they were flabbergasted by what they characterized as a desperate, cynical or dangerous choice, given Palin’s lack of any experience in national security.
“On his 72nd birthday, this is the guy’s judgment of who he wants one heartbeat from the presidency?” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who said the selection smacked of political panic. “Please.”
McCain’s advisers said Friday that McCain was well aware that Palin would be criticized for her lack of foreign policy experience, but that he viewed her as exceptionally talented and intelligent and that he felt she would be able to be educated quickly.
“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about McCain’s health, which McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.
Many conservatives said that the choice would energize them, giving McCain the support of a highly active group of voters and volunteers whose support was crucial to both of President Bush’s victories.
“They’re beyond ecstatic,” said Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition.
Palin is known to conservatives for opting not to have an abortion after learning that the child she was carrying, her youngest, had Down syndrome. “It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important that is to the conservative faith community,” Reed said.
The choice of Palin was reminiscent of former President George H.W. Bush’s selection of Dan Quayle, then a barely known senator from Indiana as his running mate in 1988.
It was far from clear Friday whether adding a woman to the ticket would convince Clinton supporters to come over to the Republicans, given Palin’s differences with Clinton on issues from abortion rights to her positions on health care and climate change. Some women said that the pick could be seen as patronizing, a suggestion that women would vote based on a candidate’s gender rather than on positions. But others saw the choice of Palin as a welcome step.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” said Kimberly Myers, a retired transit worker in Pittsburgh who had originally supported Clinton but who said that McCain’s choice would win him her vote. “She’s actually broken the glass ceiling.”
As they began gathering in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the start of their convention on Monday, some Republican delegates said they were concerned that Palin did not have the experience in foreign policy or national security to be commander-in-chief.
“We’re in a global war, we’re in a global economy, so it’s less than honest if someone says that this woman is qualified to lead America right now,” said Todd Burkhalter, a Republican delegate from Mobile, Ala..
Her selection was kept secret until Friday morning, after the two men who had been rumored to be on McCain’s short list, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, let it be known they were out of the running.
The McCain campaign said that McCain first met Palin in February this year at the National Governor’s Association meeting in Washington and came away “extraordinarily impressed.” But McCain apparently has spent little time with her.
Palin flew to Flagstaff, Ariz., on Wednesday evening to meet with two of McCain’s senior campaign aides, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, said Jill Hazelbaker, a campaign spokeswoman. The group met at the Flagstaff home of Bob Delgado, the chief executive officer of Hensley Corp., the family business of Cindy McCain, McCain’s wife.
After meeting with Cindy McCain there the next morning, Palin was brought to the McCain vacation compound near Sedona, where John McCain offered her a spot on the ticket at 11 a.m.
She flew to Ohio later that day with Schmidt and Salter, and checked into a hotel as the Upton family. Palin’s children, who had been told they were going to Ohio to celebrate their parents’ 20th wedding anniversary on Friday, were informed there that their mother would be the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Thursday evening she had a final meeting with McCain. One adviser suggested that although McCain was sure about his choice, he wanted to sit down with Palin one last time before he made what he knew would be an astonishing announcement the next morning.
As recently as last month, Palin appeared to dismiss the importance of the vice presidency in an interview with Larry Kudlow of CNBC, who asked her about her prospects for the job.
“I’ll tell ya, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day?” Palin told Kudlow. “I’m used to being very productive and working real hard.”