McCain And Palin Campaign In Pennsylvania

John McCain, who will accept the Republican nomination for president next week, is traveling by bus through Midwestern battleground states with his newly crowned choice for vice president, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Well, the view of the storm from above may be majestic, but on the ground in New Orleans concern grows. In a few minutes, voluntary evacuations have begun, almost three years to the day since Katrina hit.

But to politics now. Republican John McCain's on the road to the GOP convention next week along with his unconventional choice of a running mate. McCain surprised almost everyone yesterday when he announced he'd chosen the little-known governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

McCain and Palin have been traveling by bus through Midwestern battleground states. Tonight they're holding a rally in Washington, Pennsylvania, and that's where we find NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, how are people responding to the choice?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Jacki, there's been a tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm from the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin has strong anti-abortion credentials. She and her husband Todd have five children - the youngest born just this April with Down's Syndrome.

And the campaign says it has received close to $5 million in Internet contributions from those social conservatives since Sarah Palin was announced as the running mate. So, in some ways she has helped to address the enthusiasm gap between the Democrats and the Republicans.

At the same time, though, the choice has prompted a lot of head scratching. She's basically unknown and untested, especially in foreign policy. John McCain turned 72 yesterday, and there is a lot of question about whether Sarah Palin is ready to step into the Oval Office if necessary.

LYDEN: After she was introduced yesterday, she and McCain traveled together by bus from Dayton, Ohio to Pittsburgh, and I gather that was the most time they'd even spent together.

HORSLEY: That's right. John McCain and Sarah Palin met for the first time just earlier this year at a governor's conference in Washington. They spoke by telephone last weekend, and then they met face-to-face just Thursday morning when John McCain made the formal offer of the job. Sarah Palin had never traveled with McCain or campaigned with him like some of the other folks on the short list - Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney.

They certainly don't have the kind of long-term friendship he had with, say, Senator Joe Lieberman. So, they're just getting to know each other. That said, staffers say McCain has followed Sarah Palin's career and sees her as a kindred spirit when it comes to fighting corruption and wasteful government spending.

LYDEN: Well, just in the 30 seconds we've got left. If she was a choice made to appeal to women voters, from what you seen today, does that seem to be the case? Is it working?

HORSLEY: I have heard from some women who were very enthusiastic about her place on the ticket. She certainly acknowledged that yesterday, mentioning two women who came before her - Geraldine Ferraro and, of course, Hillary Clinton. It's questionable how many followers of Hillary Clinton would come over to the GOP, given the big policy differences. Hillary Clinton herself said that Palin would be an important voice but would take the country in the wrong direction.

LYDEN: Thank you very much. NPR's Scott Horsley.

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