Palin: The GOP lightning rod steps into the spotlight

September 3, 2008

Source: Star Tribune
Less than a week ago, Sarah Palin was a little-known rookie governor of a remote state, a working mother of five with an infant son, a woman whose life has been forged in the splendor and isolation of the Alaskan wild.

Tonight, as she takes center stage at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s running mate is a world removed from that life and facing what’s likely to be her biggest challenge ever: To introduce herself to a national audience still assessing who she is and what she believes.

Her campaign acknowledges that her speech is a crucial moment as she tries to gain control of the debate churning around her.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity, given the swirl,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Tuesday. “It’s a chance for her to get out and tell her own story, and to get beyond some of the media fog of the past few days.”

Palin suddenly finds herself with a lot of explaining to do. The 44-year-old self-described hockey mom and heroine to social conservatives has reignited a debate about working mothers, not least by being forced to reveal that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant.

“This is uncharted territory,” said University of Minnesota political scientist Kathryn Pearson, a scholar of women in politics.

Bursting on the national scene in a maelstrom of instant revelations, Palin faces other questions. An anti-corruption crusader, she is being investigated by Alaska legislators for trying to have her ex-brother-in-law fired from the State Patrol; a small-government champion, she shocked the oil industry by imposing Alaska’s version of a windfall profits tax.

The McCain campaign has used the revelation of her daughter’s pregnancy to burnish the Palin family’s credentials on opposing abortion, emphasizing the girl’s decision to keep the baby and marry the father.

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