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Palin's star rises

  • Story Highlights
  • John McCain's surprise pick for vice president takes center stage
  • Sarah Palin has battled corruption in Alaska, and is a strong public speaker
  • She opposes abortion even in rape cases, would like creationism taught in schools
  • Republican convention loved her; now the question is what will the nation think?
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By Jonathan Mann
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The people of Alaska boast that they have the coldest state in the U.S. and "the hottest governor."

Sarah Palin is the Republican Party's new star.

Sarah Palin is the Republican Party's new star.

In her younger days, Sarah Palin did come in second in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant but that's not the point.

Republican John McCain named her just one week ago as his surprise pick for the vice presidency. This week, she was the star of the Republican National Convention and became the most talked-about person in America.

They are right in Alaska; she is a hot commodity, though the Republicans may yet get burned.

Most Americans have only started getting their first glimpse of Palin, but some of her appeal is obvious. She is a compelling public speaker: strong, sentimental and sarcastic.

Her speech to the convention showed her range and persuasive power. She communicated warmth, wit and maternal pride in her family, but then switched to fierce partisanship and a caustic critique of her Democratic opponents. She's good.

And she buries every stereotype in the snow. She hunts moose and eats what she kills. She's a crusader against corruption who's taken on powerful (male) politicians and prevailed. Polls suggest she may be the most popular governor in the country.

Palin also manages the state while raising five children. (She gave birth to her youngest less than five months ago, reportedly returning to work with her newborn in tow just days later).

Why wouldn't America support a woman like that?

Her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy notwithstanding, she doesn't want public schools to teach about birth control. But she would like them to discuss 'Creationist' alternatives to the Theory of Evolution.

Palin opposes abortion in all cases, even to end a pregnancy that's the result of rape.

Lawmakers in Alaska have also launched an investigation into whether Palin misused her authority, allegedly trying to get her sister's estranged husband fired from his job as a police officer.

But opponents say Palin's biggest potential problem may be that her government experience consists only of being the mayor of a tiny remote town, and then the governor of a sparsely populated, remote state.

At the same time, Palin is already delivering an important demographic for the McCain campaign. As a centrist in his party, McCain was openly opposed by some of its most stalwart and active supporters: Christian conservatives.

Now that Palin is on his side, some of their leaders have announced that they are too.

She could deliver women, diminishing the 'gender gap' that tends to give a majority of men's votes to the Republicans, and women to the Democrats. Hillary Clinton got 18 million votes in the primaries and the Republicans are hungry for them.

And finally Palin reinforces McCain reputation as a Washington outsider. He is in fact a familiar face in the politics of the US capital, but she comes as far away as anyone on the continent can.

We'll see. Her appearance at the Republican convention this week was a complete, standing-ovation success.

John McCain has been eclipsed so far in this campaign by the excitement about two candidates he campaigned against: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Now he may be eclipsed for a time by the candidate he chose to run with: Sarah Palin of Alaska.

All About Democratic PartyBarack ObamaJohn McCainRepublican Party

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