Friday, August 29, 2008

Utah Reacts Cautiously Favorable To The Selection Of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin As John McCain's Running Mate

Despite the fact that Mitt Romney is Utah's overwhelming "favorite son", having won 90 percent of the vote during the February 5th Utah GOP primary, Utahns seem to be reacting favorably to Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (pictured at left with husband Todd) as his running mate. National story from CNN (HERE and HERE). Primary Utah media story from the Deseret News; additional coverage from the Salt Lake Tribune (HERE and HERE), the Provo Daily Herald (72 comments so far), and KSL Channel 5 (HERE and HERE) and KUTV Channel 2. And HERE's an interesting post on the Salt Lake City Weekly blog.

Those interested in the Alaskan perspective on this story can visit the Alaska Pride blog, which also contains links to numerous Alaska media stories.

Governor Palin, who has ties to Idaho, is the first woman governor of Alaska, and at 44, also the youngest to lead that state. McCain said he made his pick after looking for a political partner "who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us". McCain further stated that Palin was "exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second".

And Governor Palin expressed her pleasure at a Friday rally in Dayton, Ohio. "I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States," Palin said during the Friday. "There is only one candidate who has truly fought for America and that man is John McCain," she continued as McCain beamed. The Arizona senator was a prisoner of war for more than five years in Vietnam. The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Politics blog contains a video and a complete transcript of Governor Palin's acceptance speech. And here's a YouTube video of the rally; Governor Palin's remarks begin at the 10:00 minute point.

The contrast between the two announcements was striking — Obama picked an older running mate, and a man whom he said at the outset was qualified to be president. In contrast, McCain chose Palin, a generation younger than he is, and a governor less than two years, and made no such claim about her readiness to sit in the Oval Office. But Palin brings a conservative element to the ticket which McCain lacks - she's pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and supports traditional marriage. In addition, Governor Palin may be able to change McCain's mind on ANWR. McCain continues to oppose opening up ANWR for exploration and responsible development, although he now supports offshore drilling. There's also a new combined campaign website,, now in operation.

McCain's choice is sure to disappoint the many Utahns who have long supported Mitt Romney, the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of the LDS Church. But Romney reacted with customary class. In a statement, Romney opined that "Palin's story is one that all Americans will find inspiring. She's a Washington outsider with a commitment to the conservative principles that will make our nation stronger". Romney, who has made countless appearances on behalf of McCain after giving up his own quest for the presidency in February, also said he looks forward to campaigning for McCain, Palin "and Republicans across the country."

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., one of McCain's earliest and most loyal supporters in Utah, said he was excited about the choice of Palin. "In essence, you've got two mavericks on the ticket," the governor said. Huntsman said he knows Palin from attending governors' conferences and that both share an interest in energy policy. The governor said once Utahns get to know her, they'll like her, too, even if she isn't what he called a "homeboy" candidate.

U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah, who earlier predicted that Romney would be selected, said Friday that while Palin's "appointment comes as a surprise," he is sure she "will make a positive contribution to the McCain campaign. Palin brings administrative experience, energy and gender diversity to the ticket."

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch said the announcement brought tears to his eyes. He said, "I mean, you know, I was naturally for Mitt Romney but, on the other hand, I think it's an excellent choice … [She's] not only a beautiful person but also a very talented, tough, good leader and who is the only of the four who has executive experience". Of course, Palin's experience is that of a small town mayor and governor of a low population state. But Hatch said, "We all wish there was more experience on the part of everybody.

Hillary Clinton's Utah campaign chairman, Donald Dunn, doubts Palin can lure her Democratic supporters. "This race was never about gender," Dunn said. "It's about issues."

Romney had long been seen as a frontrunner in the so-called "veepstakes" because of a strong business background that brought him great personal wealth, and because he had the greatest potential for raising serious money for the McCain campaign. McCain has admitted being weak on economic policy, shaping up as a major issue in the campaign. And because Romney's father, the late George Romney, had served as a popular governor of Michigan, Romney was also expected to be able to help capture Michigan for the Republicans in November. Additionally, Romney's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was likely to attract voters in the West where a number of states, including Nevada and New Mexico, are up for grabs. But his chances of becoming McCain's No. 2 appeared to dim after Obama named his former rival, Joe Biden, his running mate.

The 322 comments currently posted to the Deseret News story show a mixed favorable reaction. Her critics are concerned about her limited political experience; six years as mayor and two years as governor is a questionably short apprenticeship for being a "heartbeat away". They have no concerns about her character. Many of the female commenters are quite enthused about the inclusion of a woman on the ticket who personifies traditional family values, unlike Hillary Clinton.

But there's one dark lining in this so-called "silver cloud". Palin's "clean-hands" ethical reputation has recently come into question. A legislative panel is investigating whether she dismissed Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper. Trooper Mike Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin's sister. The governor denied orchestrating the dozens of telephone calls made by her husband and members of her administration to Wooten's bosses. She says she welcomes the investigation: "Hold me accountable."

No comments: