Four years ago today, when Sen. John McCain of Arizona confirmed that he had picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the reaction across the country – indeed, in many newsrooms – was about the same: "Sarah Who?"
There was some debate about how to pronounce "Palin." "Is it a soft or hard 'A'?" someone asked. Reporters started making calls.
Mitt Romney's decision to add Rep. Paul Ryan to this year's ticket came as a bit of a surprise, too. Analysts keeping close watch on the "veepstakes" might have had him on their lists, but he was hardly a favorite.
By late Friday night, Aug. 10, that had changed. After a few days of whispers that a decision was near and that Ryan could, indeed, be the guy, the Romney campaign made it official. Paul Ryan would be the vice presidential nominee.
No one asked how to say his name. After 14 years in Washington, the Wisconsin congressman, 42, has more than a record; he has a brand.
But their easily apparent differences aside, the entries of Palin in 2008, and Ryan this season have added strikingly similar dynamics to their respective races.
And it goes beyond just the aesthetics, although there is that, too. Ryan today is just two years younger than Palin was when she addressed the convention in St. Paul, Minn., four years ago. They both have young children, a passion for exercise and a taste for hunting (although Ryan prefers crossbows to Palin's helicopters and guns).
More importantly, they both appeal to a part of the Republican Party that's caused fits for McCain and Mitt Romney: The base.
Ryan, with his deficit-hawk bible called "The Roadmap," is Romney's inside man. Question Romney's dedication to the conservative cause? Well, your answer is Ryan. Palin was unfamiliar to the national media but, like Ryan, her mere presence quieted internal worries about McCain's interest in keeping the party line.
"They both acknowledge the problem," Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin told ABC News. "Ryan is definitely a wonk and a numbers guy, but Sarah Palin doesn't just talk. She took down the entire 'good old boys' establishment in Alaska. You don't do that by just talking."
Martin, who first spoke with Palin at a reception after they were both named to Time magazine's 2010 "Most Influential" leaders list, has worked in close contact with Ryan.
"Yes, [Palin] is a mom working in Alaska and he's a man who's been in Washington for years," Martin said. "But it doesn't matter. Our people are going to vote for the person who will repeal the Obama health care law and commit to balance the budget without raising taxes."
While Palin, 48, is almost always identified as a "tea party darling" or its most popular leader, Ryan also has close ties to the movement.
"We met with him, in his office, before the debt-ceiling [debate]," Martin said, recalling a private meeting early last year. "We met with him, his legislative coordinator -- ours was there, too -- and we went through 'The Roadmap.'"
On a more cosmetic level, their convention speeches are expected to follow similar guiding themes. Both were crafted by the same GOP speechwriter, Matthew Scully. Scully, who also worked in George W. Bush's White House, is drafting Ryan's convention address alongside another Bush holdover, John McConnell.