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Palin Brings Conservative Credentials to McCain’s Bid

August 29, 2008 at 6:15 PM EDT
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GOP Sen. John McCain made an unexpected move Friday when he nominated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Judy Woodruff examines Palin's background, her path to the governorship and her conservative track record.

JIM LEHRER: Who is Sarah Palin, and why did John McCain choose her? And to Judy Woodruff.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain announced his surprise pick for vice president in the battleground state of Ohio in front of a boisterous crowd of thousands, just hours after the Democratic convention in Denver wrapped up.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: She’s fought oil companies, and party bosses, and do-nothing bureaucrats and anyone who puts their interests before the interests of the people she swore an oath to serve. She’s exactly who I need. She’s exactly who this country needs to help me fight… to help me fight the same, old Washington politics of “me first and country second.” My friends and fellow Americans, I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States…Gov. Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), Alaska: Thank you so much. And I thank you, Sen. McCain and Mrs. McCain, for the confidence that you have placed in me. Senator, I am honored to be chosen as your running mate.

I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States.

Palin's family life

JUDY WOODRUFF: Palin took the stage surrounded by her children and husband, Todd.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: Todd and I have shared many blessings, and four out of five of them are here with us today. Our oldest son, Track, though, he'll be following the presidential campaign from afar. On September 11th of last year, our son enlisted in the United States Army.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Their youngest child, Trig, only 4 months old, was born with Down syndrome.

McCain, who celebrates his 72nd birthday today, went for a running mate almost three decades younger. Palin is 44.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: Some of life's greatest opportunities come unexpectedly, and this is certainly the case today. I never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office.

My mom and dad both worked at the local elementary school. And my husband and I, we both grew up working with our hands. I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska, raising...We're busy raising our kids. I was serving as the team mom and coaching some basketball on the side. I got involved in the PTA, and then was elected to the city council, and then elected mayor of my hometown, where my agenda was to stop wasteful spending, and cut property taxes, and put the people first.

A conservative track record

JUDY WOODRUFF: In November 2006, Palin, whose prior experience in office was as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska -- population 7,000 -- was elected the first female governor of the Last Frontier State, and its youngest.

Pro-life on the question of abortion, she has a conservative track record on both social and fiscal issues and earned a reputation as a reformer.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: I signed major ethics reforms, and I appointed both Democrats and independents to serve in my administration. 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.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On energy issues, Palin goes a step further than McCain, advocating drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Palin supports the war in Iraq and visited members of the Alaska Army National Guard in Kuwait in July 2007.

In today's speech, she highlighted her running mate's foreign policy credentials.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: This is a moment -- this is a moment when great causes can be won and great threats overcome, depending on the judgment of our next president. In a dangerous world, it is John McCain who will lead America's friends and allies in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

It was John McCain who cautioned long ago about the harm that Russian aggression could do to Georgia and to other small democratic neighbors and to the world oil markets.

It was Sen. McCain who refused to hedge his support for our troops in Iraq, regardless of the political costs.

An appeal to women voters

JUDY WOODRUFF: And she made a clear appeal to women voters.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections. I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984... and, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign.

It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America... but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In her year-and-a-half as governor, Palin has enjoyed very high approval ratings, consistently over 80 percent.

Earlier this month, questions about her ethics surfaced when the state legislature opened an independent investigation into whether Palin abused her office by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as an Alaska state trooper.

Palin will face off against the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, in just over a month when the NewsHour's Gwen Ifill hosts the vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis.