By Ashley M. Lewis, Christopher Weaver, and David Hill
DENVER ? Less than 24 hours after Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination at one of the most historic conventions in American history, presumed Republican nominee Sen. John McCain returned to the political spotlight with a historic move of his own.
Friday morning, McCain announced his vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the first female candidate to be nominated on a Republican ticket.
Palin was considered a wild-card pick on McCain’s short list, and Maryland’s Democrats and Republicans alike were surprised that she was selected over more experienced politicians.
“John McCain can no longer question Barack Obama’s experience,” said Dan Clements, director of Maryland for Obama. “He’s picked a running mate who has far less.”
Palin, 44, is a first-term governor who was elected in 2006 after defeating incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in that year’s Republican primary.
From 1996-2002 she was mayor of Wasilla, an Alaska city of fewer than 10,000, according to U.S. Census estimates for 2007. She served on the Wasilla city council from 1992-1996.
Many Democrats called the selection of a female running mate a clear attempt to attract angry Sen. Hillary Clinton supporters.
“It’s obvious that the choice was made to go after the Clinton women who are not happy with the Obama campaign because she was not chosen for VP,” said Dion Guthrie, a Harford County councilman and convention delegate who voted for Clinton over Obama in Wednesday’s roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention.
Guthrie thought McCain might get some Clinton Democrats in the fall. But not him, he is supporting Obama.
“There will be the cross-overs,” said Guthrie. “That’s the number one issue in this campaign – he didn’t take Clinton and McCain took the strong woman from Alaska.”
But other Clinton supporters argued that while they were excited by the historic opportunity to nominate a woman for the presidency, they supported her on substance as well as identity.
The issues that made Clinton popular across the party will not be compatible with the Alaska governor’s politics, particularly Palin’s anti-abortion position and National Rifle Association membership.
“I do not think that any true Hillary supporter is going to change their mind and vote for a McCain and Palin ticket when we don’t even know anything about her,” said Marcia Massey, a Maryland delegate who also voted for Clinton Wednesday.
Justin Shuy, a Maryland alternate delegate for next week’s Republican convention, defended the Palin pick.
“She worked her way up from a business leader role to the city council to going to the state house,” said Shuy, an assistant coalitions chairman for the McCain campaign. “She has that executive experience.”
But Democratic delegates from Maryland see McCain’s choice as little more than a gimmick.
“I hope that a true Democrat is going to see through this, and certainly a true Hillary supporter is going to see through it,” Massey said. “It’s a gratuitous attempt to gain the woman vote and it’s an affront to Hillary voters, because they’re saying we won’t look at any qualifications.”