Sen. John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin won praise from many commentators within the ambit of the Republican Party, but especially among pro-lifers. Praising Palin as “strongly pro-life,” speakers remarked that Palin’s decision to carry her Down’s syndrome child to term was an especially sharp contrast with Sen. Barack Obama’s opposition to legislation that would protect infants who survive abortions.
Sen. McCain announced the choice of Palin at a rally in Dayton, Ohio on Friday. McCain introduced her as someone "who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people who are counting on us."
Palin was born in Idaho on February 11, 1964. According to a biography on Alaska’s official web site, Palin moved to Alaska with her family later that year. Her husband, Todd, is a production operator for BP and a champion snow machine racer. They have five children, with Palin recently having given birth to a son with Down’s syndrome in April.
She has also served as city councilman and mayor of Wasilla, a south-central Alaska town with a population of reportedly more than 6,000 people, and served as chair of the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas resources.
Speaking in a phone press conference, several expert panelists with Republican sympathies praised the pick.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, lauded the decision.
"Sarah Palin is the whole package. There couldn't be a better vice-presidential pick," said Dannenfelser. "Women voters are electrified,” she continued, describing Palin as a “reform-minded woman” who is “truly in sync with the way real women think.” She will “give all Americans, born and unborn, the authentic leadership they deserve," she said.
Father Frank Pavone, President of Priests for Life, called Palin “strongly pro-life.”
Asked how the selection will be received by pro-life Catholics in particular, Father Pavone added, “It will no doubt be received very well.”
He noted that the pro-life community already was somewhat familiar with Palin because she recently gave birth to a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Father Pavone suggested Palin will bring more into play the “pro-life increment.” He explained that for the one-third or more of the electorate who consider the abortion issue in their votes, there is a two to one margin in favor of pro-life candidates.
Jill Stanek, a conservative journalist and blogger, asked the panel to contrast Palin’s decision to deliver her Down’s syndrome baby with Sen. Barack Obama’s opposition to legislation that would protect infants who survive abortion.
Father Pavone replied, “the contrast between those two facts about the candidates is going to come out… we’re going to make sure that it comes out, it’s a very striking contrast.”
Dannenfelser quoted Palin’s own comments when she discovered her unborn baby had Down’s syndrome: “We feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift.”
Dannenfelser remarked: “Contrast that with Sen. Obama’s approach to leaving born-alive babies left sitting there for dead, and also making the comment, if his daughter got pregnant, he would not ‘punish her with a baby.’
“It’s ‘punishment’ versus ‘privilege,’ that’s the contrast,” Dannenfelser asserted.
CNA asked the panel whether the Palin pick was a tacit acknowledgment of McCain’s weakness among pro-lifers.
Dannenfelser said that she believed people think McCain has genuine pro-life convictions, but suggested that anyone skeptical should see the Palin choice as a “perfect complement,” not as the filling of a weakness.
Father Pavone agreed, adding that the selection of Palin eliminates any concern about a possible pro-choice vice-presidential nominee.
“I think this will help us know he really does embrace this issue in political practice as well as in his voting record,” he stated.
Ken Blackwell, Vice-Chairman of the Republican National Committee’s platform committee, added his own comments.
He remarked that, as someone who guided the platform committee to the “most significant pro-life platform in the Republican Party’s history,” he thought John McCain’s “full embrace of the platform” is shown in the ticket. “This team does not reflect one iota of weakness. It is the strongest pro-life team with a pro-life platform in the history of the Republican Party.”
When CNA asked how McCain could be described as such a strong supporter of the platform in light of his endorsement of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Blackwell noted that McCain’s campaign has worked with the platform committee on the relevant language. Blackwell said he thought that McCain, if he recognizes that there have been breakthroughs in research that do not involve the destruction of embryos, “that [recognition] will make this argument… a non-starter.”
Leaders of other interest groups in the GOP also praised McCain’s vice-presidential pick.
Sandra Froman, former National Rifle Association (NRA) president and current board member, called Palin, an NRA member, an “outstanding pick” who would “energize the gun rights community.”
“How can you go wrong with a moose burger-eating, fishing governor?” she asked in a delighted tone.
Grover Norquist, a prominent fiscal conservative who is president of Americans for Tax Reform, praised Palin as a “reformer” who improved government transparency by putting government financial records online.
Several panelists suggested that the pick would also appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters disaffected by an Obama candidacy and the prospect of a victorious Obama’s control of the Democratic Party. They also thought the choice courts “Reagan Democrats” who voted against Obama in the primaries.
Panelists argued that the choice of Palin, Alaska’s governor for only two years, would not eliminate Republican charges that Obama is inexperienced.
“When you compare her experience to Barack Obama’s experience, her executive experience, her experience as mayor, her experience as assistant governor, her experience as a reformer, her experience as an environmental activist,” Blackwell argued, “she is more prepared, more experienced to be president than the top of their ticket.”
Elsewhere, social conservatives were enthusiastic about the Palin choice.
“What a remarkable pick,” Austin Ruse of C-FAM told CNA in a statement. “Social conservatives are dancing in the streets. This is smart and dare I say sexy pick. My wife Cathy and I are gushing.”