Sarah Palin Set To Take The National Stage

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waits to speak at an event in O'Fallon, Mo. i i

hide captionAlaska Gov. Sarah Palin waits to be introduced to speak during an event on Sunday in O'Fallon, Mo.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waits to speak at an event in O'Fallon, Mo.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waits to be introduced to speak during an event on Sunday in O'Fallon, Mo.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For the past few days, John McCain has been introducing his vice-presidential pick, Gov. Sarah Palin, to the nation. Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Palin will speak for herself.

What Palin chooses to emphasize, the questions she opts to answer, and the issues she decides to sidestep will reveal a lot about her. To most Americans, she is unknown.

"I don't know much about her," says Texas alternate delegate Vincent Campos, 22, of Mineral Wells. "I'm hoping she'll explain herself."

Bill Lee, 89, of Sun City, Ariz., who says he is the oldest delegate at the convention, expects Palin to talk about the economy, national security, health care and how she's going to change the way Washington works.

"She's going to tell us how she's going to work with McCain," he says.

How she addresses recent controversy will be watched as well.

Democrats, and even some Republicans, are questioning whether Palin has been properly character-scanned by the McCain campaign.

"When I was vetted in 2004," Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) told NPR's Mara Liasson, "there were multiple interviews with individuals, lawyers and with John Kerry. Very little of that happened this time. So, that suggests it was a gut decision on the part of John McCain. That concerns me, because we've had eight years of gut decisions."

The Washington Post reports that the McCain vetting team did not conduct a long, in-depth background check and that she was only interviewed the day before McCain offered her the invitation. But McCain and his team have said that she went through an extensive interrogation process.

Supporters hail Palin as a reformer and a champion of ethical governance. Critics point out that she has little experience in national security matters and international affairs. Information gatherers have been scurrying to learn — and sort out — everything possible about her public and personal life. In the rush, there has been a blizzard of stories — some true, some false. Day-by-day, new dispatches arrive from America's northernmost hinterlands.

Palin served on the city council of Wasilla, a town of fewer than 10,000 people, for two terms, served as mayor of the town for two terms, and has held the governorship since December 2006. She is the first woman to be nominated to the number two spot by Republicans. She's a working mother, a member of the National Rifle Association and a former member of the Wasilla Assembly of God. She and her husband, Todd, announced during the convention that their 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant.

In the machinations of Alaska public service, Palin has been promoted as a major gear shifter. The New York Times reports that as mayor of Wasilla, Palin spoke to the city librarian about banning certain books, but nothing came of it. She has also made waves by canning people from their jobs. Her possible involvement in the removal of the state's public safety commissioner led to an ethics investigation. Palin has hired a lawyer to represent her.

There are also questions about Palin's attitude toward pork-barrel politics.

But little of the news of questions surrounding her public and private life has impacted the support she has been receiving from the conservative right, from female voters or from the McCain base.

Early Wednesday morning, Palin appeared in the convention hall for a walk-through before the evening's address. Most of the seats were empty, and the hall was relatively quiet. On Wednesday night, when she takes the podium — and in the days to come — there should be a very different feel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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