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Palin Faces Challenges on Road to Election

Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, faces some big challenges in coming weeks as she campaigns with Senator John McCain before the November presidential election. Palin electrified delegates at the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, in a speech describing herself as an independent outsider ready to work with McCain to change Washington politics. As VOA's Dan Robinson reports, it remains to be seen how many independent, moderate and female voters she can bring in for the Republican ticket.

In her address to the Republican convention, Palin sought to link herself to McCain's reputation as a "maverick, " and McCain's surprise choice of the little known Alaska governor as his running mate underscored that reputation. While McCain portrays himself as a reformer within the Republican Party, Palin's socially conservative family values, and personal biography have tremendous appeal for the conservative wing of the party, whose support McCain has been courting.

While Palin came across well to convention delegates, she will face intense scrutiny as the campaign heats up. Among other things, her performance in an October vice presidential debate against veteran U.S. Senator Joe Biden is expected to provide Americans with a clearer picture of her abilities, and whether McCain's bold selection was a wise one.

Among the constituents McCain hopes to win over are women voters, including some of Democrat Hillary Clinton's supporters, who were disappointed at her primary loss to Senator Barack Obama.

Some leading Republican women have come out strongly in defense of Palin, who, they say, has faced unfair scrutiny in the media over revelations about her unwed daughter's pregnancy and an ethics investigation involving her in Alaska, as well as questions about her executive experience as a first term governor.

Carly Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett Packard, says demeaning headlines describing Palin as, among other things, a "cheerleader from the West," will backfire as American women of all political persuasions learn more about her. "This executive, who has made more executive decisions than Barack Obama has made in his life, also happens to be a woman, and that is thrilling to so many millions of American women," she said.

Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin says Palin is well-equipped to reflect challenges facing American women attempting to balance career and family. Marin is angry with media coverage of Palin. "I believe that women are completely and absolutely outraged. I am outraged, I am insulted, I am offended," he said.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says conservatives have been energized by Palin's presence on the Republican ticket, but he believes most Americans have not yet made up their minds, even after what most agree was a superb convention performance:

"There is no clear decision yet on Sarah Palin and there won't be, even after her convention speech. It's going to take a few weeks of interviews, cross-examining by big-name journalists to see how she reacts, because we still don't know what is under the microscope, how she will perform, does she know enough about issues, does she know anything about foreign policy, national security issues, international questions. How will she respond to questions on the role of the government and size of the government. We just don't know enough about her," he said.

Political analysts say McCain's choice of Palin has solidified the traditional conservative base for McCain, as well as injected a youthful element into his campaign. If he is victorious over Obama, McCain would be 72 years old when he is sworn in next January. Palin is 44.

Former House of Representatives Republican majority leader Tom DeLay says, before the Palin selection, he was having difficulty personally committing to vote for McCain because of differences with him on many key issues.

Delay says Palin has transformed the race. "Now, with Palin on the ticket, the base will be energized and the independents will be with McCain. It is a race now, but the McCain campaign cannot dismiss the fact that they limited themselves to public financing. Obama is going to out-spend them five to one, and Obama has got an incredible organization that McCain does not have. That is going to be the difference in the race, and they are going to have to work very, very hard to make up that difference," he said.

Delay predicts what he calls continued "trashing" of Palin in the media will awaken what he describes as the giant in the Republican party, namely Republican women.

Jane Swift, a former Republican governor of the state of Massachusetts, predicts that American voters will come to understand more of what Sarah Palin brings to the Republican ticket, and the potential this holds for the country. "As they get to know the McCain-Palin ticket, I think, they will be as impressed as all of us are, with a record of achievement, and they will help us all to focus on the issues," he said.

It is too early to tell whether Palin will draw more women to McCain's camp, as Repubicans hope.