Sen. John McCain stunned the political world Friday by picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, making her the Republican Party's first female vice presidential candidate in history.
"She's not from these parts and she's not from Washington," McCain told a crowd of some 12,000 Republicans at a basketball arena in Dayton, extolling her work against corruption and special interests in Alaska. "But when you get to know her, you're going to be as impressed as I am."
McCain said, "she's got the grit, integrity, and good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today."
Palin, 44, said she is "honored to be the running mate."
"I know it will demand the best I have to give, and I promise nothing less," Palin said.
She later added that she and her husband Todd are celebrating their 20th anniversary. "I had promised Todd a little surprise for the anniversary present," she joked, "and hopefully he knows that I did deliver."
McCain's pick guarantees an historic election, one that will produce either the first African-American president or the first woman vice president.
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama described Palin as someone with a "terrific personal story" and said her new status as McCain's running mate as "one more hit against that glass ceiling."
"I haven't met her before, (but) she seems like a compelling person," Obama said on Friday, at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. "I congratulate her and look forward to a vigorous debate."
Palin said she never planned to get involved in public affairs, describing herself as "your average hockey mom."
She was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Palin said she ran for the Wasilla City Council and later the mayor's job in order to "cut wasteful spending and property taxes," a line that drew a roar from the crowd.
She spoke of "the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and of course ... Sen. Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. Hillary left 18 million cracks in the hardest glass ceiling in America. The women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!"
Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Burton countered that McCain "put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency." Burton said in a statement that "Gov. Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies — that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."
But McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker pushed back on the qualifications argument, saying Obama "simply cannot match" Palin's record.
She said Palin has been "actually achieving results, whether it's taking on corruption, passing ethics reform or stopping wasteful spending and the 'bridge to nowhere.' Senator Obama has spent his time in office running for president."
The "bridge to nowhere" was a proposed $398 million bridge connecting the town of Ketchikan to its airport on a nearby island where about 50 people live. Alaska's most powerful members of Congress, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, inserted funding for the project in a 2005 transportation bill.
President Bush called McCain's choice "exciting" and said "Governor Palin is a proven reformer who is a wise steward of taxpayer dollars and champion for accountability in government."