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Palin pick jolts GOP ranks ahead of convention

Socially conservative and telegenic, Alaska's governor livens the ticket but is questioned on experience.

By Staff writer / August 29, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, waves to supporters as she is introduced as Vice Presidential running mate by Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, not pictured, at a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio., Friday, afternoon Aug. 29, 2008.

Stephan Savoia/AP

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Denver ­ - John McCain's surprise selection Friday of Sarah Palin, first-term governor of Alaska, as his running mate has sent a jolt of electricity into the Republican Party on the eve of its convention.

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The popular, telegenic governor of America's 49th state brings to the table a record of challenging the status quo, strong social conservative views, and the potential to attract disgruntled supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came close to winning the Democratic nomination but was not chosen as nominee Barack Obama's running mate. Governor Palin's own maverick streak, pushing for ethics in government and opposing special-project funding from Washington, meshes with Senator McCain's stance.

Still, Governor Palin's short time as a governor ­ under two years ­ and lack of experience in national security matters has raised eyebrows, especially given McCain's age. At 72, he is the oldest first-time nominee for either major party. Voters may look a little more closely at his running mate's preparedness for office than they might otherwise.

But then there's the potential upside in the selection of Palin - the daughter of a science teacher and school secretary originally from Idaho - as one who may be able to woo the demographic groups that have been most resistant to Obama's appeal: white older women and working-class voters.

The Palin pick "was both a bold and a risky move," says Dennis Simon, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "Bold, because McCain went way outside the Washington, D.C., establishment and chose someone who was hardly on the radar screen; risky, because she has no exposure to the rough and tumble of national politics. I don't want to draw too close a comparison, but the last time this happened was when [the first President] Bush went with Dan Quayle."

Palin's selection is also reminiscent of Democrat Walter Mondale's choice of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, an attempt to inject some excitement in a tough year for the Democrats. While the Bush-Quayle ticket succeeded, Mondale-Ferraro got trounced.

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