How Sarah Palin Works

2008 GOP running mates Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin eat together at Arthur Bryant's Barbeque in Kansas City, Mo., in September 2008. See more pictures of Sarah Palin.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

One day in April 1996, Sarah Palin waited in line at a cosmetics counter at the Anchorage, Alaska, JCPenney. She'd fibbed to her husband Todd that she planned on going shopping at Costco. Instead, she made a beeline for JCPenney to see Ivana Trump. As she waited, a local reporter for the Anchorage Daily News who'd come out to cover the publicity event interviewed her. Why did she want to see Ivana Trump? "'We want to see Ivana … because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture,'" she told the reporter [source: Editor and Publisher].

At the time of the interview, Palin was working for her husband's commercial fishing business and nearing the end of her four-year run as a member of the Wasilla­, Alaska, city council. That fall, she would be elected as mayor. A decade after that, she would get a chance to bring a "semblance of glamour and culture" to her state when, as governor, she was featured in the January 2008 issue of Vogue magazine.

Four months later, a pregnant Palin found herself in a ticklish situation when she was in Texas at a conference of the Republican Governors Association. Just before she was scheduled to deliver a speech to her colleagues, her water broke. Palin gave the speech anyway. Immediately afterward, Palin boarded a flight to Seattle, where she changed planes, flew home, and drove an hour to the hospital, where she gave birth to her son, Trig. She was back at work three days later [source: BBC].

This dichotomy between femininity and toughness has captured the admiration of supporters among what had been a divided and stale Republican base in the 2008 presidential campaign. Republican nominee Sen. John McCain's choice of Palin surprised both Democrats and Republicans. She's a moose hunter and fisherwoman, a "hockey mom" (distinguished from a pit bull only by lipstick, as she mentioned at the Republican National Convention), a "Wal-Mart mom" and a politician aiming to shake up the corrupt "old boy's network" [source: Washington Post, USA Today].

But she's also an obscure figure in American politics. Palin's served only two years as governor of Alaska in addition to serving six years as mayor of a town of less than 10,000 people. In this article, find out about her life, career and what qualifies her to serve as vice president.