ST. PAUL - Over the next few weeks, starting Wednesday night with her acceptance speech, then with her first solo campaign trips, her first news conferences and interviews and finally her Oct. 2 debate with Democrat Joe Biden, Sarah Palin will be tested as never before. Nothing she has experienced in her hometown of Wasilla, where she was mayor, or her state capital of Juneau can really prepare her for this.
Now, Palin won't be able to blink without having a camera in her face.
The risk that Barack Obama avoided by selecting Biden, a two-time presidential candidate and longtime senator, is one that McCain accepted in hopes of strengthening his own reformer credentials.
His aides insist that Palin was not a last-minute choice but had been high on his prospect list since they met last February when she was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association. They also assert that she had been "fully vetted."
But only three days after she was named came the disclosure that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter was five months pregnant. The family said the young woman planned to carry the pregnancy to term and to marry the father of her unborn child.
Inside the convention, the news was mostly accepted with equanimity. "People deal with family issues like this all the time," said Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota - a line I heard echoed from Connecticut to Idaho.
But the press secretary to a fellow-Republican governor said of Palin. "I hope there aren't more surprises to come. "
There are likely to be more. When The Washington Post reported Tuesday that as mayor, Palin had employed an Anchorage-based lobbying firm that secured $27 million of earmarked projects for Wasilla, it was treated within the convention not as a contradiction of McCain's anti-spending stance, but as more evidence that she is an aggressive go-getter.
She is overwhelmingly popular with the delegates - even before they have heard from her. Hollis Rutledge, a marketing consultant from Brownsville, Texas, deep in the Rio Grande Valley, said that despite her geographic distance, Palin was "an excellent choice."
The public will be passing judgment on Palin much more slowly. That verdict is yet to come.
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