TOPICS > Politics

Palin’s Rise Offers New Insight on GOP Running Mate

September 2, 2008 at 6:15 PM EDT
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As new coverage surfaces on the little-known vice presidential candidate, the NewsHour's Judy Woodruff discusses her background, accomplishments and stance on critical issues with a delegate from Alaska.

MARGARET WARNER: Delegates at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul admit they were shocked at yesterday’s news that vice presidential pick Sarah Palin’s unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, but publicly at least they are rallying around the Alaska governor, the mother of five, whose youngest is just four months old.

JOYCE SHIRLEY, Texas Republican delegate: We’re going to elect Governor Palin. We’re not going to elect her daughter. It’s her qualifications to be vice president, is what matters.

JOSEPH WOOD, Arkansas Republican delegate: Nobody here walks on water. And so what has happened in her family happens in most American families across the board.

MARGARET WARNER: Yet the pregnancy news, along with a growing list of other new disclosures about Palin, have some asking if the governor was thoroughly vetted.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), Alaska: I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska.

MARGARET WARNER: John McCain’s campaign insists she was. The spokeswoman said Senator McCain specifically knew about the daughter’s pregnancy before he chose Palin as his running mate.

NICOLLE WALLACE, McCain campaign spokesperson: The normal vetting process was underway. And obviously, this was disclosed by Governor Palin and her family. The thing that forced her hand — and that is very unfortunate — is that the fervor with which the Democratic-leaning blogs and a few in the mainstream media pursued this.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.

MARGARET WARNER: Still, the story grabbed the convention’s focus on a first day sharply abbreviated by Hurricane Gustav.

Asked about the matter in Michigan yesterday, Democratic nominee Barack Obama said family issues have no place in the campaign.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Ill.: This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.

MARGARET WARNER: So far, reporters and others have not backed off that story and other new items that have surfaced about Palin.

Still under investigation is her attempt to engineer the firing of an Alaska state trooper embroiled in a messy divorce from her sister. Palin said yesterday she’s hired a private lawyer to represent her in the probe.

New questions have also been raised about a central claim made by Senator McCain when he chose her, that she’s fought special interests and wasteful spending. Palin sought to highlight those same traits.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: And I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks,” on that Bridge to Nowhere.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, it’s come to light that, as mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin hired a Washington lobbying firm to win her town some $26 million in earmarks.

Republicans seem happy with Palin

JUDY WOODRUFF: The first place we headed to get some reaction to the Palin story is none other than the Alaska delegation. And we are talking with one of the delegates from the state of Alaska, Kim Skipper.

Thank you very much for talking with us.

KIM SKIPPER, Alaska Delegate: You're welcome. Glad to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What was your first reaction on Friday when you heard the news? You were already here.

KIM SKIPPER: I was here for the platform committee, and I was shocked, but then I was like, "This is awesome, totally awesome."

JUDY WOODRUFF: You've had four days now, what, to get used to the news. What are you hearing from other members of the delegation and from people back home?

KIM SKIPPER: The delegation is totally excited about the ticket. And we're proud of our governor. And we're proud to have our Alaska -- state of Alaska on the map and in the limelight for the first time. And we're enjoying it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, there's some new pieces of information coming out about the governor, about positions she has taken, about her daughter, other things. How much of this was known already?

KIM SKIPPER: I think she's been well-vetted. And, you know, it's no different than any other situation, you know. I think she's been well-vetted, and everything will be just fine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of the questions, Kim Skipper, about her decision, the mother of a 17-year-old with who is now pregnant, the mother of a baby, four months old with special needs. Any discussion about her decision in those circumstances to pursue the vice presidency?

KIM SKIPPER: No, she's got strong faith in God. And she's got a very supportive family. She's got a wonderful husband, wonderful, you know, parents and in-laws. And with the extended family, there's no reason why her, like any other woman in this country, cannot multi-task and get the job done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Kim Skipper, delegate from Alaska. Thank you very much.

KIM SKIPPER: You're welcome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, now we want to get a little more reaction to the Palin choice from some Republican women, elected officials. And for that, let's go to Gwen Ifill in our skybox.