Republican presidential candidate John McCain stunned the US political establishment and bolstered his image as a maverick by choosing the little-known governor of Alaska as his running mate in the race against Democrat Barack Obama.
McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin also means that no matter who wins in November, US history will be made: Either the first black man will become president or the first woman will be vice president.
Palin offers risks and rewards for McCain. The choice of a 44-year-old, first-term governor to be his vice president could undermine one of McCain’s main campaign themes: that Obama, a 47-year-old first-term senator, is too inexperienced to become president.
But Palin, whose nomination was announced on Friday, could help McCain rally social conservatives, a core Republican constituency that has had an uneasy relationship with McCain. Palin has a strong anti-abortion record and opposes gay marriage.
“I have found the right partner to help me stand up to those who value their privileges over their responsibilities, who put power over principle, and put their interests before your needs,” McCain told a crowd of supporters.
Choosing a young, female unknown could buttress McCain’s reputation as an unconventional candidate.
Both McCain and Obama are running against the political status quo, but Obama consistently notes that McCain has been in Washington for decades and regularly ties him in with the unpopular US President George W. Bush.
Vice presidential choices seldom have much effect on the presidential election. But McCain’s choice received extra scrutiny because of his age and bouts with skin cancer. He turned 72 on Friday and would be the oldest, first-term president in US history. If he dies or is incapacitated in office, Palin would succeed him — a point stressed by Obama’s campaign in pointing to her resume. She is only two years into her first term in governor, and her previous experience was as a small town mayor.
“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Adrianne Marsh, a spokeswoman for Obama, said in a written statement.