John McCain has made his vice presidential pick: the Republican contender will tap first-term Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
The 44-year-old Palin brings working class roots and appeal to female voters, becoming only the second female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket -- a first for the GOP.
She also brings a reputation as a reformer, beauty pageant good looks, a crack shot with a rifle and an eagerness for political combat that earned her the nickname of "Sarah Barracuda."
Being first is nothing to new to Palin (pronounced PALE-IN). She is the first female governor as well as the youngest governor ever of the Last Frontier, the 49th state to join the Union in 1959 and one of the country's least populous states.
Palin became governor just two years ago after defeating Republican incumbent Frank Murkowski in a GOP primary.
"Governor Palin is a tough executive who has demonstrated during her time in office that she is ready to be president," the McCain campaign asserted in a statement. "Governor Palin has the record of reform and bipartisanship that others can only speak of. Her experience in shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today."
McCain introduced Palin during a rally in Dayton, Ohio, that began with 15,000 supporters serenading him with "Happy Birthday." McCain, almost giddy with the enthusiastic reception, turned 72 today.
But he quickly segued into introducing the star of the day's rally as someone who "stands up for what's right and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down."
Praising her "grit and integrity," McCain said, "She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country this needs to help me fight the same old Wash politics of me first and country second."
Moments later Palin emerged with her trademark beehive hairdo followed by her husband, Todd, and four of their five children as the arena erupted in cheers.
When the roar subsided, Palin confided that it was her and Todd's 20th wedding anniversary. "I promised Todd a little surprise with the anniversary presents and hopefully he knows I did deliver," she said.
Palin also said that her oldest child, son Track, couldn't be there because he was in the Army and training for deployment to Iraq next month.
"Todd and I are so proud of him," she said.
In her debut on the party's ticket, Palin emphasized her blue collar roots, describing herself as an "just your average hockey mom in Alaska" and her husband as a member of a steelworkers union.
In a pitch to women, she cited the performance of Democrats Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, who ran as Walter Mondale's vice presidential candidate, and Sen. Hillary Clinton "who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign."
Using Clinton's reference about having created 18 million cracks in the political glass ceiling, Palin said, "The women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., in a written statement congratulated Palin on her achivement.
"We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate," said Clinton.