Sarah Who? Why John McCain Picked VP Palin

Republican running mate opens culture debate, appeals to conservatives & women.

ByABC News
August 29, 2008, 12:41 PM

Aug. 29, 2008— -- Sen. John McCain's surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to join the Republican presidential ticket represents a clear attempt to exploit a culture gap in the presidential race -- reviving a tactic that the Bush-Cheney team used to great effect in 2004.

Palin's selection will help McCain appeal to female voters -- particularly disaffected supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remain skeptical of Sen. Barack Obama.

"The women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all," Palin said in the maiden McCain-Palin event in Dayton, Ohio, wasting no time making her case to women.

Palin cited Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential running mate of a major party in history, and Clinton's "determination and grace in her presidential campaign."

The first female Governor of Alaska also made a point of referencing her five children, the latest of which was born in April, and her son who will soon be deployed to Iraq.

Her selection as vice president comes during the week of the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage, a fact also noted in her address.

In a high-risk gambit with the potential for an equally high payoff, McCain is targeting a weakness in Obama's base and exploiting it.

But more broadly -- and perhaps more potently -- Palin helps McCain connect with working-class and rural voters.

Republicans greeted the selection with glee, anticipating the contrasts between a gun-toting self-described "hockey mom" and an effete, Harvard-educated ticket-topper on the Democratic side.

She's "exactly who I need," McCain of his selection. "She's exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second."

Choosing Mitt Romney -- whose personal wealth exceeds even the McCain family's -- would have done little to answer Obama's charge that McCain is out of touch.