The Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, created an immediate stir with news that her unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant. Yet even the party's most conservative members are rallying behind her.
Sarah Palin is sure of a rapturous welcome from the Republican convention, but the under-fire vice presidential pick must win over a much tougher crowd -- an America that hardly knows her.
After days in the eye of a political storm, the Alaska governor is expected to step into the primetime spotlight on Wednesday less than a week after John McCain catapaulted her from national obscurity by naming her his running mate.
In a blizzard of disclosures, US voters have among other things since learned Palin's unmarried teenaged daughter is pregnant, and that she has hired a lawyer to defend herself in an abuse of power probe.
She has also been linked to an obscure Alaskan Independence Party, and Democrats have rapped her for lacking the experience to serve a "heartbeat" from the presidency.
Yet the controversy has only served to draw the Republican Party around the 44-year-old mother of five, who sent the party's powerful social and evangelical conservative base into peals of delight with her selection.
"What a breath of fresh air Governor Sarah Palin is," said former senator and Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on Tuesday.
The folksy former "Law & Order" star noted that Palin was from a "small town with small town values -- apparently that's not good enough for some of the folks out there now attacking her and her family."
"Some Washington big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has governed rather than just talking a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit."
Palin electrified evangelicals who helped George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to two White House terms, and who have long had a testy relationship with McCain.
Many evangelical conservatives leaders have praised her for living out her staunch anti-abortion values, after continuing her pregnancy after learning her now five-month-old son Trig had Down syndrome.
That impression was further cemented when conservatives learned that Palin's daughter, Bristol, would not have an abortion but would keep her baby and marry its father.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for American legislative action committee said in a statement the family drama had offered Palin a chance to make a "politically convenient choice or the right one."
Republican leaders have yet to definitively confirm that Palin will speak to the convention on Wednesday, as the program is still in flux after the first day program fell prey to Hurricane Gustav.
McCain, under scrutiny from Democrats who say the volley of revelations about Palin cast doubts about his judgement, and the process by which she was chosen, on Tuesday mounted a firm defense of Palin.
"I want to repeat again how excited I am to have Sarah Palin, the great governor of Alaska as my running mate," McCain said during a campaign stop in Ohio.
"America's excited and they're going to be even more excited once they see her tomorrow night. I'm very, very proud of the impression she's made on all of America and I am looking forward to serving with her."
McCain's top female supporter, trailblazing business executive Carly Fiorina warned that attacks against Palin were taking on a "sexist" tone.
"I am appalled by the Obama campaign's attempts to belittle Governor Sarah Palin’s experience," Fiorina said in a statement.
"The facts are that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as a mayor and governor than Barack Obama has made in his life," she said refering to the Democratic presidential nominee.
"Because of Hillary Clinton's historic run for the presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms.
"They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin."
Fiorina's mention of Clinton was no mistake, as the Obama campaign struggled to find the right language to attack the former first lady during the Democratic primary campaign.
Date created : 2008-09-03