The news that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant rocked the political world Monday almost as much as Palin's joining the Republican ticket did just three days ago.
The announcement sought to put to rest a potentially damaging Internet rumor concerning the parentage of Palin's infant son. It also showcases one of Palin's strengths as a candidate: the perception that she is a "real" person who has coped with setbacks that average Americans face every day.
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But by the same token, the pregnancy raises complicated questions for conservative voters regarding issues of teenage sexual activity. And -- perhaps more troubling for the McCain-Palin ticket -- the revelation comes during a critical period where voters are just beginning to learn about Palin and her family.
"Republicans will look at this like it's their primarily their family's business and the fact that they're keeping the baby underscores Palin's personal commitment to life issues," said Matthew Dowd, a former top strategist to President Bush and an ABC News contributor.
"This is not a problem unless it becomes the first in a series of such revelations that makes this look like the last of the Alaskan wild sort of thing," Dowd said.
The news -- released to the public on the first day of a Republican National Convention severely truncated by Hurricane Gustav -- sent shockwaves through St. Paul, the convention site. Many Republicans expressed relief that the timeline of her pregnancy apparently means that Internet reports that Palin pretended to be the mother of a child who was actually her daughter's cannot be true.
Democratic nominee Barack Obama Monday said his campaign will not make a political issue of the Palin daughter's pregnancy. He told reporters while campaigning in Michigan that a candidate's family is "off limits and people's children are especially off limits," pointing out that his own mother gave birth to him at 18.
Several delegates contacted by ABC News said they were not bothered by the fact that Palin's daughter is pregnant. Several said the revelation -- and particularly the fact that Bristol Palin plans to have the baby and marry the father -- gives them more respect for the Palin family.
"It's a situation that many Americans have faced, she just happens to be on the presidential ticket," said Texas delegate Russell Martinez, 40. "Situations like this can affect you no matter who you are."
Wearing a button with flashing red lights that reads "the LIFE of the party, Republican National Convention 2008" Donna Crocker, 69, a Texas delegate, said it's good Palin came out early with the revelation.
"I think the fact that Palin's out in front with it is really a very god thing. My prayers are with the family," Crocker said.
"The fact that her daughter's keeping it and marrying the father is wonderful. It's a human life and she is respecting that," Crocker said of Bristol Palin.
"This is absolutely the best thing they could do," said Oklahoma delegate Angie LaPlante, 46, of Bristol Palin's decision to keep the baby. "This is the best thing, pro-life decision and it shows Palin is being supportive," she said.