Republican presidential candidate John McCain sprang a surprise on Friday by selecting 44-year-old Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, little-known at the national level, as his running mate.
The timing of the announcement was calculated to reduce the boost — and airtime — Democrats were expected to receive from their national convention in Denver. McCain and Palin were to appear Friday afternoon at a rally in Dayton, Ohio. Today is McCain’s 72nd birthday.
Palin, who became governor on December 4, 2006, is the first woman to hold the office. She is pro-life; she had her fifth child in April although she knew the child had Down’s Syndrome. She is also a member of the National Rifle Association.
While the Obama campaign seized on Palin’s lack of experience, some analysts said she could help the Republican ticket among women and social conservatives. A significant chunk of defeated Democratic contender Hillary Clinton’s supporters have said they do not support Barack Obama; some others are undecided. Their support could be critical in a tight race.
“Governor Palin is a tough executive who has demonstrated during her time in office that she is ready to be president,” the McCain campaign said. “She put a stop to the ‘bridge to nowhere’ that would have cost taxpayers $400 million.”
Palin, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications-journalism, is married to Todd Palin, a four-time champion of the Iron Dog, the world’s longest snowmachine race.