DENVER (AP) — John McCain tapped Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a conservative who shares his maverick streak, to be the Republican vice presidential running mate on Friday in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
In an announcement, McCain’s campaign said that Palin, who has been governor less than two years, “has the record of reform and bipartisanship that others can only speak of.
“Her experience in shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today,” the announcement said.
McCain and Palin were appearing together in swing-state Ohio later in the day.
Palin has a strong anti-abortion record, and her selection was praised warmly by social conservatives whose support Mccain needs to prevail in the campaign for the White House.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant choice,” said Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University school of Law. “This will absolutely energize Mccain’s campaign and energize conservatives,” he predicted.
With his pick, McCain passed over more prominent contenders like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, as well as others such for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, whose support for abortion rights might have sparked unrest at the convention that opens Monday in St. Paul, Minn.
The timing of McCain’s selection appeared designed to limit any political gain Obama derives from his own convention, which ended Thursday night with his nominating acceptance speech before an estimated 84,000 in Invesco Field in Colorado.
Public opinion polls show a close race between Obama and McCain, and with scarcely two months remaining until the election, neither contender can allow the other to jump out to a big post-convention lead.
At 44, Palin is a generation younger than two of McCain’s seven children. She also is considerably younger than Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is Barack Obama’s running mate on the Democratic ticket.
She is three years Obama’s junior, as well — and McCain has made much in recent weeks of Obama’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy and defense matters.
In its formal announcement, the campaign pointed to her powers as head of the Alaska National Guard and the mother of a soldier herself as evidence that she “understands what it takes to lead our nation…”
McCain has had months to consider his choice, and has made it clear to reporters that one of his overriding goals was to avoid a situation like 1988, when then-Sen. Dan Quayle was thrown into a national campaign with little preparation.
A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, Pallin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 6,500, until she became governor.
Palin flew overnight to an airport in Ohio near Dayton, and even as she awaited her formal introduction, some aides said they had believed she was at home in Alaska.
She is a former mayor of Wasilla who became governor of her state in December, 2006 after ousting a governor of her own party in a primary and then dispatching a former governor in the general election.
More recently, she has come under the scrutiny of an investigation by the Republican-controlled legislature into the possibility that she ordered the dismissal of Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper.
Palin has a long history of run-ins with the Alaska GOP hierarchy, giving her genuine maverick status and reformer credentials that could complement McCain’s image.
Two years ago, she ousted the state’s Republican incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski in the primary, despite having little money and little establishment backing.
She has also distanced herself from two senior Republican office-holders, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don young. Both men are under federal corruption investigations.
She had earned stripes — and enmity — after Murkowski made her head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. From that post, she exposed ethical violations by the state GOP chairman, also a fellow commissioner.
Her husband, Todd Palin, is part Yup’ik Eskimo, and is a blue-collar North Slope oil worker who competes in the Iron Dog, a 1,900-mile snowmobile race. The couple lives in Wasilla. They have five children, the youngest of whom was born in April with Down syndrome.