Republican presidential candidate John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate has shaken up the U.S. presidential race in some unexpected ways. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
This week the McCain campaign rumbled into the key battleground state of Ohio, riding on a crest of recent public opinion polls that show Senator McCain either pulling even or moving ahead of his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama.
Leading the way for McCain is his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Palin carries out the traditional duty of introducing McCain during campaign stops, but it is clear the large crowds are just as eager to see her as they are the Republican presidential nominee.
"He is too humble to say this on his own behalf, so let me say it for him," she said. "There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you, and that man is Senator John McCain!"
Since last week's Republican convention, the McCain-Palin ticket has enjoyed a major boost in the polls, and the Palin selection seems to have sparked new enthusiasm for the Republican ticket.
Senator McCain now casts the Republican ticket as one primarily focused on bringing change and reform to Washington.
"My friends, I am so honored to be introduced by Governor Sarah Palin today," he said. "But I cannot wait to introduce her to Washington, D.C. and the big spenders!"
Like most Americans, the Obama campaign seemed caught off guard by Palin's selection.
Senator Obama acknowledges Palin's candidacy has shaken up the race for the White House.
"And she has brought excitement to the Republican Party, there is no doubt about that," he said. "I think what we are going to have to do is see how things settle out over the next few weeks when people start examining who is actually going to deliver on the issues that people care about.
Obama's vice presidential running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, says the Republicans have done a good job so far of sheltering her from inquisitive reporters.
"Sarah Palin eventually is going to have to do what I do," he said. "She is going to have to go on 'Meet the Press' like I do and have them come at her like they come at me. She is going to have to answer questions. She is going to have to say where she is going to take America and she is going to have to defend her record."
In the short term, the polls suggest Palin is reaping some political benefits for the Republicans, especially among social conservative voters.
"John McCain's supporters are happy she was chosen, 85 percent of McCain supporters say that," says Kathleen Frankovic, director of surveys for CBS News. "And among evangelical Christians, the base that McCain needed to shore up, there has also been an increase in enthusiasm. Those evangelicals are happy with the Palin selection."
Biographer Kaylene Johnson says Sarah Palin's appeal extends beyond social conservative voters to those concerned with ethics and reform in government.
"I think she has really energized the McCain ticket, that is for sure," she says. "She is all of those things that people have been asking for in terms of something new and in terms of change. I think what she really brings to the ticket is energy and then a fresh approach to transparency and ethics in government."
Political experts say the addition of Palin to the Republican ticket has helped McCain as he competes with Obama on the issue of change.
"Obama has been put in a corner by McCain," says Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "McCain has essentially stolen his theme of reform and change and bipartisanship. Obama has got to work very hard, very quickly to get it back."
Palin's key test could come on October 2 when she and Democrat Joe Biden will take part in a vice presidential candidates debate in St. Louis.
Senators McCain and Obama will square off in three presidential debates as well, with the first scheduled for September 26 in Mississippi.