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
More about Sarah Palin:
- Who is Sarah Palin?
- McCain Picks Palin
- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: "The Right Partner" & The Right Running Mate
- Draft Sarah Palin!
- The Pros & Cons of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
- McCain's VP Pick Sarah Palin No Friend to Animals
- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin & the Economy
- Environmentalists Blast Palin as McCain's Choice for VP
- Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin and US Foreign Policy