I've fielded several phone calls this morning about John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. The questions: "So, does Palin have enough experience? Isn't she going through her own political scandal right now? Hasn't she also been fighting against Republican corruption in her own state? How will PUMAs – the unofficial group of soured Hillary Clinton supporters ("Party Unity My Ass") – react to having a (pro-life) woman within striking distance of the glass ceiling? Is she Dan Quayle with sex appeal or Hillary sans Bill's baggage? Is it really McCain's birthday today? Could she beat Barack in basketball? And hasn't she been widely named America's Sexiest Governor?" They'll all fair questions. Here are some answers.
Experience: She doesn't have much – or at least that's what the Democrats will be saying until Nov. 4. Palin was elected governor of Alaska in 2006. Before that she was the mayor of Wasilla, a town of about 7,000 people. Not exactly the big time. The other big meme we'll be hearing from the Obama camp will be her lack of foreign policy and national security expertise. They've already called her candidacy a "hail mary pass" because she has the "thinnest foreign policy experience in history." But the McCain campaign argues she's a "tough executive who demonstrated during her time in office that she is ready to be president," adding that her "experience shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today."
Scandal: The other big thing Democrats will use to kneecap Palin's candidacy is what TalkingPointsMemo.com calls a "bonus pre-packaged scandal." She is currently being investigated for firing Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he wouldn't fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was "messily divorced from Palin's sister ... and disciplined before Palin was elected governor for things like drinking on the job and tasering his own pre-teen son." Her selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate also could bring the campaign spotlight closer to the Alaska's other sweeping corruption scandals, including the investigation of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.
PUMA: So. Will Palin capture angry Clinton supporters who feel they were wronged in the primary? It's possible. But her selection is a deliberately calculated move by McCain, one that – to some Democrats, men and women – could make Palin more of a novelty than a person prepared to step into office should McCain fall ill. The other big question is abortion. Palin's pro-life stance will no doubt appeal to the Republican base. But can it win over Clinton Democrats? It's doubtful. Still, her candidacy is a historic chance for women to break through the glass ceiling at the White House. And that shouldn't be overlooked in November.
Background: The Spokesman Review reports Palin is a Sandpoint native who moved to Alaska when she was an infant. She played basketball at Wasilla High School in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was nicknamed "Sarah Barracuda" for her intense play. (Can you say one-on-one with Barack?) She graduated from the University of Idaho in 1987 with a degree in journalism, became the mayor of Wasilla in 1996, the governor of Alaska in 2006. She has five children, the most recent of which was born with Down syndrome in April 2008.
America's Sexiest Governor: If you skipped straight to this section,
shame on you I don't blame you. Wonkette.com named Palin the nation's hottest governor when she was sworn into the governor's office in 2006, and since then other Web sites have followed. Alaska Magazine gave her the title in Feb. 2008. The folks at Wonkette also uncovered a photo (see above) of Palin's runner-up performance in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant in 1984. She posed for Vogue in Dec. 2007.
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