Reaction to Gov. Sarah Palin's selection Friday as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket ran the gamut from, "the dumbest thing anyone could have ever done," to "an absolutely brilliant choice."
Whether you agree with either of those sentiments or are somewhere in between them, Palin's selection was a flabbergaster here in Alaska, across the nation and around the globe. With Palin, McCain fired the shot that stunned us all.
In the 48 hours since McCain's pick, we've seen and heard the full spectrum of responses and granular analyses from conservatives, liberals and others ad nauseum. Get used to it. There's much more to come in the next 60 days.
What happened Friday isn't unlike what happened with Palin in her gubernatorial bid two years ago. She ran away with the late-summer primary election against former Gov. Tony Knowles and John Binkley, and ultimately sailed to victory in the general election. Her appeal was as a fresh and pretty face on the state political scene. She represented what wasn't - and would not be - tied to politics and politicians of the past, and Alaskans saw in her so much of themselves.
McCain, in the final hours before this week's Republican National Convention, banked on more of the same and chose a running mate who he and party officials see as a completely clean break from business as usual. It's a gamble that could pay off big, or it could be a bust of unparalleled proportions.
At the national level Palin will have to be much more than a fresh and pretty face. Even in the next 24 hours she'll need a boatload of schooling on a shipload of issues, and the savvy to convince others she really does know what she's talking about. That's a tall order for a self-described hockey mom, former small-town mayor and first-term governor who critics claim has minuscule knowledge of national affairs and even less knowledge of world affairs.
For Palin and her handlers to say she's reformed a corrupt political system in her first two years as Alaska's governor is a stretch at best. So is saying she boldly bucked the influences of big oil in the state, and that she flatly said no to Ketchikan's infamous "bridge to nowhere," that had been earmarked in the federal budget.
Then there is the lingering investigation over her termination of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Some say he was fired because he would not bow to pressure from Palin's allies to fire Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, who had a messy divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister. That could boil over in the national media in a problematic way for McCain.
Palin does, however, have serious appeal with a broad base of Americans. Her image is that of a strong family woman, a government reformer, a fiscal and social conservative, a pro-lifer and someone whose family is every bit as genuine, down-to-earth and values-based as anyone's.
Regardless of the prognostications of the political pundits, much is sure to happen between now and the end of the Republican National Convention, and even more will happen before the dust settles with the general election. In the mean time, Sarah Palin's ascension to the national stage appears to be quite good for Alaska, for regardless of her party and her politics, her nomination as vice president of the United States casts the state in a light it's never seen and may not see again for many years.
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