McCain Taps Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin For VP

As John McCain's scheduled vice presidential announcement neared Friday, a surprising name emerged as his likely pick: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She's a 44-year-old mother of five who was elected in 2006 on a platform of challenging the old guard of the Republican Party.

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Republican John McCain paused the battle ever so briefly to release an advertisement congratulating Obama.

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JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama, this is truly a good day for America. You know, too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So, I wanted to stop and say congratulations.

INSKEEP: That was yesterday. Now McCain hopes to make this day his day. In a basketball arena in Dayton, Ohio, McCain is expected to appear with his vice-presidential running mate. NPR's Scott Horsley is in Dayton this morning to bring us the latest. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: My gosh, if you turn on cable television this morning, you could lose your mind with all the speculation. What is actually known?

HORSLEY: Very little, Steve. The campaign has done a remarkable job of keeping a very tight lid on their selection. There was no overnight news leak. There was no three a.m. text message. And yesterday, John McCain himself had almost nothing to say about his selection. He joked with reporters that he might tap Wilford Brimley, the actor and oatmeal spokesman, but nothing serious has been said about who the choice will be. We may have to wait for the rally at noon today at Wright State University.

INSKEEP: None of which is going to stop us spending the next couple of minutes, Scott, going through the evidence we do have. I want to play you a piece of tape. It comes from one of the possible contenders for the vice-presidential choice, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota. He was on the radio, WCCO AM in Minneapolis, and was asked this question.

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Unidentified Reporter: Are you planning to be in Dayton, Ohio, at 11 o'clock central time this morning?

TIM PAWLENTY: No. As I mentioned before, I am planning on being in Minnesota today. In fact, I will be in Minnesota today. I'll be at the state fair doing my radio show as well as some other things. So, I will not be in Dayton, Ohio.

INSKEEP: And he says, draw whatever conclusions you can from that, Scott Horsley.

HORSLEY: I think that's right, and one conclusion you can draw is the short list has gotten a little bit shorter. Tim Pawlenty had been mentioned as a possibility, thanks to his blue-collar roots and his strength with social conservatives, but he says he won't be here. Another name that's been highlighted in recent days is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. He would bring some much-needed business experience to the ticket. He was a successful private equity investor.

He would also help John McCain in the swing states of Michigan - where he was raised and where his father was a popular governor - and the Rocky Mountain West, especially Colorado and Nevada. He won caucuses in both of those states, and Nevada's about 11 percent Mormon. But there're still some reservations elsewhere in the country about Romney's Mormon faith, and about the sincerity of his social conservative positions. Also, like McCain, he's someone whose family is worth tens of millions of dollars, which might not help with the blue-collar voters.

INSKEEP: Scott, I want to throw another name out there, certainly a dark-horse candidate, Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, a woman, a social conservative, somebody who's made a name for herself in Alaska, though she's only been governor a couple years, and here's the bit of evidence I want to throw at you. Wikipedia, the ever-reliable online encyclopedia, very briefly this morning described her as the presumptive Republican vice president nominee, unquote...

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INSKEEP: Although a few minutes later, the article was changed to take that down again. Has her name come up very much around the campaign?

HORSLEY: Not a great deal. I mean, she has been on sort of the extended version of the short list. She is a reformer. She's crusaded against corruption in Alaska in the same way that John McCain likes to boast of crusading against corruption in Washington. And she is a strong pro-life advocate. She has a child with Down syndrome and John McCain is also a strong pro-life advocate, and says he was looking for a running mate who shares his values. I think she has been considered a wildcard, not the likeliest contender, but we're at that stage where unlikely contenders may be in the mix.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley is in Dayton taking us through what we know and what we don't know. Scott, always good to talk with you.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: And of course, we will continue to bring you more as we learn it. Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, is expected to name his vice-presidential choice a little bit later on today.

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INSKEEP: It's Morning Edition from NPR News.

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