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Some thoughts on Sarah Palin

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain‘s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is fascinating any way you cut it.

Palin is extremely popular in her state, enjoying approval ratings that’ve ranged as high as 80 to 90 percent. In a state beset by other Republicans’ scandals, she has made ethics and earmark-slashing — even her fellow Republicans’ earmarks — the cornerstones of her administration. Palin opposes abortion choice; supports capital punishment; opposes same-sex marriage but issued a veto which effectively granted benefits to same-sex partners of state employees; and is a lifetime National Rifle Association member. She’s a mother of five, the eldest of whom is in the Army and scheduled to ship out to Iraq next month, and the youngest of whom was born just this April with Down syndrome.

However, the Alaska Legislature — where Republicans control the state House and a bipartisan coalition runs the state Senate — has hired an investigator to probe whether she or her aides improperly pressured the Public Safety Department to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who’d been in a divorce and child-custody battle with the governor’s sister; Palin fired the department’s commissioner in July, but said it had nothing to do with her sister.

A chief GOP criticism of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama — who was a state Senator for seven years and now a U.S. Senator for less than four — is that he’s too inexperienced to be president. Yet McCain has picked a running mate who’s younger than Obama and whose experience consists of four years as a citycouncilman and six as mayor of a town of 6,700 people (roughly two-thirds the size of Emeryville for all us East Bay folks), and now less than two years as Alaska’s governor.

Clearly part of McCain’s calculus in choosing Palin is the hope that she’ll attract female voters — be they Democrats, independents or Republicans — who are still irked that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Democratic nomination. And in trying to pull those Democrats and independents, he’s putting faith in the idea that gender will trump policy in these voters’ hearts and minds. Perhaps he’s also hoping that having a 44-year-old running mate will balance voters’ concerns about his own age (again, happy 72nd birthday, Senator).

The Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President blog — launched in late February 2007, less than three months after she was sworn in as governor — is beside itself with joy.

Thoughts, anyone?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.