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Sarah Palin - Historic VP Selection Puts Her in the Spotlight

By August 29, 2008

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Until today, nobody ever would have mentioned Sarah Palin and Geraldine Ferraro in the same breath.

Palin is the popular Republican governor of Alaska, a state that calls to mind wide open spaces, polar bears and oil drilling, and rugged individualism. Ferraro, a Democrat, is a former US Congresswoman who represented a district in Queens, a borough of New York City, one of the most densely populated places on the planet.

At first glance, these two women - elected officials with constituencies far different from each other, both serving at opposite ends of the United States - would seem to have very little in common.

Yet when Republican presidential candidate John McCain named Sarah Palin as his VP choice today, he linked Palin and Ferraro together forever in American political history. Palin is only the second woman to represent a major political party as the Vice Presidential candidate, and is the Republican Party's first woman to do so. Geraldine Ferraro made history as the first woman Vice Presidential candidate of a major political party, asked by Walter Mondale to share the Democratic ticket in 1984.

At the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, today's announcement ensures that the 2008 presidential campaign will continue to be one for the record books. "This is a history-making choice and an exciting moment for women in politics," notes CAWP director Debbie Walsh. "After the first woman on a national ticket, we've waited more than two decades for the second. Sarah Palin's selection is yet another important step ahead for women."

It's a bold move for John McCain, who has battled criticism - both publicly stated and via whisper campaigns - that he is not supportive of women. Palin is a social conservative and a Republican, but she is a woman, and her presence on the ticket invigorates conservative and Republican women who want to prove that the Democrats do not have a lock on women voting in this election.

And in an environment that is hyper-critical of women running for public office, including some media outlets that seem to prefer covering details of hairstyle, makeup, and clothing instead of substantive policy issues, the fact that Palin is a former beauty pageant contestant and Miss Alaska runner-up provides additional interest to journalists already looking for angles.

Sarah Palin may be dismissed by some all too quickly for being just a pretty face. But that would be a mistake. She's a woman with an unexpected and varied career. One early dream - to be a sportscaster sitting next to Howard Cosell a booth broadcasting basketball games - was realized in part as she studied journalism in college and worked for a time as a sportscaster for an Anchorage station. She's also worked beside her husband as a commercial fisherman. She's been quoted as saying how playing basketball changed her life, and those who judge her by her pleasant demeanor may be surprised by the nickname she earned as a player - "Sarah Barracuda" - because of her aggression and fierceness on the court.

In conversations with women and men throughout the day, from politically savvy young adults to average citizens who don't follow politics much until a week before they pull the voting lever, there's been a great deal of surprise that McCain named Sarah Palin. "Who is Sarah Palin?" is the question I keep hearing. I asked this same thing back on June 10, when I first heard - and immediately blogged - about her.

This is Sarah Palin, and we'll learn more about her as November nears. As we do, I think there'll be less surprise over why McCain chose her, and more surprise that we didn't know more about her sooner.

Photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin © Mario Tama/Getty Images

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August 29, 2008 at 8:14 pm
(1) Eric says:

I can tell you one thing about Sarah Palin – apparently she wouldn’t permit her teenage daughter to get an abortion even if she were raped. http://www.now.org/press/08-08/08-29.html.

John McCain evidently thinks that a lot of Hillary supporters will vote for any woman regardless of her positions and record just because she’s a woman. I for one would be very skeptical of anyone heartily endorsed by James Dobson, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2070749/posts.

August 30, 2008 at 1:44 am
(2) Gin says:

She may be a woman, but her views are a step back for women. Wake up Hillary supporters, this is not the same thing!

August 30, 2008 at 4:26 am
(3) Kathy says:

I am as intrigued by what this choice says about McCain as I am about Palin’s personal policy positions.

Her selection provides a hint of the old, unconventional (aka maverick) McCain who seemed to have disappeared after his loss to GWB in 2000.

September 3, 2008 at 7:23 am
(4) Sallie says:

The issues that are important to me as a women are not the same issues that are important to Sarah Palin. I don’t see her as being “a fresh idea”, I see her as being a part of the same old same old. If you want to go back to the old days when women were supposed to be barefoot and pregnant, vote for the Republicans, if that doesn’t appeal to you than vote Democrat.

September 3, 2008 at 8:07 pm
(5) Chris says:

I’m not surprised at the hysterical comments towards Palin (“Barefoot and pregnant” indeed! Here’s a clue…she won’t be in the kitchen if she’s VP). It’s disappointing that the first reaction by so many who saw her was to scream “FEMALE!” and to immediately question why on earth someone would pick a female for the VP. Stand back for a moment and forget she’s female. Whether you like conservative values or not, she’s a dream candidate for those who do. Even considering her against the baggage heavy Romney, I don’t see how conservatives could have gotten luckier. If you hate her values, fine, no surprise. Still, I think the audience here do her and Hillary a disservice by reducing them to their gender. Both are fine candidates for their party.

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