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Associated Press/Photo by Kiichiro Sato

First look: Sarah Palin

Campaign 2008 | John McCain's choice for running mate brings strong conservative credentials to the ticket

Who is Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's newly crowned running mate?

She is a signal to red-meat conservatives. The Alaska governor's ascension from the Wasilla City Council to her state's highest office moved forward on a commitment to efficient, accountable government. She famously quashed Alaska's infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" project and shut down the steady flow of federal pork to her state, even that supported by fellow Republicans. What's more, she's a lifelong hunter with an appetite for moose burgers and hobbies like ice fishing and snowmobiling.

Sarah Palin is a shot of youth and social history into the campaign of an aging white man. The former runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant defies GOP convention and at least partly undermines the media cheerleading for what would be an historic inauguration of Sen. Barack Obama. Palin, 44, is only the second female vice president nominee for a major party and would be the first woman to fill the office if elected.

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Sarah Palin is a mother of five. Her oldest, Track, will deploy to Iraq as an army infantryman this September. Her youngest, Trig, was born this past April with Down syndrome. In between are three daughters, Bristol, Willow, and Piper. Palin's husband, Todd, is part Yup'ik Eskimo and a four-time winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race.

Sarah Palin is pro-life and pro-marriage. She served as head of her high school's chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told CBS last month that of all of McCain's potential VP picks, Palin would most energize evangelicals. She is a member of Feminists for Life. Alaska state Rep. Wes Keller, who has attended Wasilla Bible Church with Palin for years, told WORLD that "she is the real thing as far as being a Christian."

Sarah Palin is no "yes" woman. She disagrees with McCain on a number of issues, none more important, perhaps, than whether the nation should tap oil reserves in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. McCain has consistently sided with environmentalists on the issue, but may have shown new willingness to change with his recent capitulation to pressure for off-shore drilling. Palin is likely the most qualified person in the world to convince McCain to pull the trigger in ANWR. As state Sen. Fred Dyson put it in reference to Palin's 74-percent approval rating among Alaskans: "She certainly charms all of us."

Finally, Sarah Palin offers quite a contrast to Democrat VP nominee Joe Biden, just the kind of perception-based counter-jab McCain may need to take down Obama.


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