AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Republicans on Friday offered near-universal praise for John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate and the first woman to appear on the GOP ticket.
Sen. Olympia Snowe said McCain’s choice demonstrates “his willingness and commitment to push boundaries and transform America.”
“It is an outstanding choice that will resonate with voters in Maine and throughout America, as she will further bring an outside-the-beltway, reform-minded approach to the White House with a John McCain presidency,” Snowe said Friday.
Sen. Susan Collins said that as a woman, a wife and a mother of five, Palin “would bring a unique perspective to the office.”
“I am not surprised that for his choice John McCain looked outside of Washington for an executive with a proven record of challenging the status quo,” Collins said in a statement from Blue Hill, where she’s on a bus tour in her re-election campaign.
Palin has earned a reputation for bucking her party’s establishment and Alaska’s powerful oil industry. In 2006, she won a primary victory over incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, who served 22 years in the U.S. Senate before winning the governor’s seat in 2002.
Maine House Republican Leader Josh Tardy described Palin as an “independent-minded, maverick-type leader” who is “not afraid to shake things up.” He said McCain was wise to choose a running mate who would expand his appeal to “crossover” voters without eroding the support of his GOP base.
Less enthusiastic was Sen. Peter Mills, R-Skowhegan, who admitted he was unfamiliar with Gov. Palin’s record.
“I hope she can handle herself,” Mills said. “I hope she’s not from the extreme right.”
McCain, he noted, “needed someone female and he needed someone younger” to round out his ticket. But Mills said he would have preferred a vice presidential candidate with more political experience and a higher public profile. “I was hoping to see Condoleezza Rice” on the McCain ticket, he said.
Democrats were even more skeptical.
Gov. John Baldacci, who was en route home from the Democratic National Convention in Denver, questioned whether Palin has the experience to serve as president. Democratic nominee Barack Obama chose as his running mate Joseph Biden, a senator since 1973 and a foreign policy expert.
“I think the question probably would be, given Sen. McCain’s years and the factor in terms of her experience, is she going to be able to take over to be the president of the United States? That would be a question,” Baldacci said from LaGuardia Airport.
State Republican Party Chairman Mark Ellis was in Minneapolis at a GOP meeting in advance of next week’s convention when Friday’s announcement was made. The group of more than 100 GOP leaders stopped the meeting to watch the announcement live on television.
“She’s an exciting and historic choice,” said Ellis, who downplayed questions about Palin’s level of experience. “Actually, I think our vice presidential candidate has more executive experience than the Democratic presidential nominee.”
Snowe made note of the fact that Palin is the first Republican woman tapped for national office.
“The time has long since come for a woman to be the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, and I congratulate John McCain for breaking this political glass ceiling on behalf of millions of American women in the 21st century,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.