How Sarah Palin Works


Sarah Palin: Life after the Nomination
Gov. Sarah Palin gives her acceptance speech for her nomination as vice president.
Gov. Sarah Palin gives her acceptance speech for her nomination as vice president.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

On Aug. 29, 2008, the 20th anniversary of her marriage, Sarah Palin gave the ­most important speech of her life. Before a television viewing audience of 37.2 million people (one million shy of the record audience Barack Obama's acceptance speech drew a week earlier), Palin accepted the nomination as the first female Republican vice-presidential candidate [source: New York Times]. Palin told McCain after he introduced her: "I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States" [source: Palin].

Palin became an overnight superstar after John McCain announced he'd chosen her as his running mate. Political writers were surprised by the breadth and staying power of the sensation her nomination garnered. A Pew Research survey found that for the week of Sept. 1 to 7, 2008, Gov. Palin topped the news cycle, edging out Democratic nominee Barack Obama and even her running mate [source: Politico].

She lent a surge to McCain's campaign, which had been trailing Obama's. In the weeks following his vice president selection, McCain jumped 12 percent among white women registered voters [source: Washington Post]. This surge took away a sector that had largely supported Obama and helped McCain narrow the overall lead between McCain and Obama in polls.

This popularity remained in the face of personal and political revelations about Palin. Almost as soon as she accepted McCain's invitation to run as vice president, news of scandals emerged in the media. Despite the bad press, Palin has displayed an uncanny ability to weather scandals of both a personal and professional nature.

Palin announced that Bristol was five months pregnant at the time of the nomination. "She has our unconditional love and support," the Palins said in a press release [source: Chicago Tribune]. The statement also mentioned that Bristol would marry the father, 18-year-old Levi Johnston. Despite requests for privacy from the Palins, Johnston was brought into media focus when excerpts from his MySpace page were published [source: New York Post].

Stories about Todd Palin's past emerged as well. The "First Dude" was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) from 1995 to 2002 [source: Boston Globe]. The AIP wants Alaskans to have a vote on secession from the United States [source: AIP]. Todd Palin also was charged with drunk driving in 1986, at age 22 [source: CBN].

Palin's professionalism came under a cloud when news of the "Troopergate" story spread. As governor, Palin and her husband stood accused of pressuring the state public safety commissioner to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, Palin's former brother-in-law, who was involved in a divorce with Palin's sister at the time. The Palins filed reports against Wooten, alleging he'd been abusive to his stepson and had violated state laws. The commissioner refused to fire Wooten and was himself later fired by Palin. The governor has said she released the commissioner over budget problems [source: WSJ]. The allegations were enough to launch an investigation by the state legislature, prompting Palin to hire a private attorney. Making matters worse, the man she chose to replace the fired commissioner left the position two weeks later after a 2005 sexual harassment complaint surfaced [source: USA Today].

With reports of scandals flooding the news cycle after her nomination, McCain campaign managers kept Palin away from the media. Some journalists complained that Palin was delivering the same speech at each campaign stop and offering nothing new. However, the crowds of voters she drew admired her. At campaign rallies, "Mr. McCain's crowds have mushroomed from hundreds to happily bellowing thousands" [source: New York Times]. She also drew donors: McCain's campaign attracted $7 million the day after he announced Palin as his choice for vice president [source: AFP].

A Sept. 5 to 7 poll shows 53 percent of Republicans said they were more likely to vote GOP because Palin was on the ticket; Vice President Dick Cheney managed to garner 20 percent of respondents in 2000 [source: USA Today]. And Palin's shown tremendous staying power in the media spotlight. "[I]t is very unusual, if not unprecedented, for a vice presidential pick to dominate a campaign in the sustained manner Palin has," wrote one observer [source: Politico].

This, what came to be referred as the Palin effect, lost some momentum as the campaign wore on. By mid-October, Palin’s favorability in polls decreased. One New York Times/CBS poll found that she elicited a 40 percent unfavorable response among voters, with 32 percent responding favorably. This was almost a complete flip-flop in results from a poll taken in September [source: Scotsman]. Support for the vice presidential candidate among the GOP remained strong, however. In early October, Sarah Palin drew a crowd of around 20,000 for a solo appearance in Carson, Calif. This appearance came on the heels of her strong showing at the single vice presidential debate, where most observers agreed the governor held her own against veteran senator Joe Biden.

She also took on the traditional vice presidential role of attack dog for the campaign, mentioning that Barack Obama was “palling around with terrorists,” in reference to the Democratic candidate’s past relationship with former Weather Underground member William Ayers [source: AP].

Sarah Palin appears to have learned a significant amount about national politics. If support for her remains through November, she may become the first female vice-president in U.S. history.

­

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Agrell, Siri. "Did Palin give McCain a boost with women?" Globe and Mail. September 10, 2008. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080910.CAMPAIGNWOMEN10/TPStory/International#
  • Armstrong, Ken and Bernton, Hal. "Sarah Palin had turbulent first year as mayor of Alaska town." Seattle Times. September 9, 2008. http://news.bostonherald.com/news/2008/view.bg?&articleid=1117919&format=&page=4&listingType=2008pres
  • Benjamin, Mark. "Her deadly wolf program." Salon. September 8, 2008.http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2008/09/08/sarah_palin_wolves/
  • Brody, David. "Exclusive: Todd Palin's 1986 DUI arrest called 'lesson learned.'" Christian Broadcasting Newtwork. September 1, 2008. http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/436411.aspx
  • Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Palin still at McCain's side, to enthusiastic crowds." New York Times. September 9, 2008. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/palin-still-at-mccains-side-to-enthusiastic-crowds/
  • Carlson, Margaret. "As Palin stars, McCain goes along for ride." Bloomberg. September 11, 2008. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_carlson&sid=agrvQnJ6cpMc
  • Carlton, Jim. "'Troopergate looms over Palin's bid." Wall Street Journal. September 5, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122064605094904757.html?mod=loomia&loomia_si=t0:a16:g12:r1:c0.88455
  • Demer, Lisa. "Palin's child diagnosed with Down syndrome." Alaska Daily News. April 22, 2008. http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/382864.html
  • Fritze, John and Kelley, Matt. "Palin shook up 'old boy's network.'" USA Today. September 3, 2008. http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-09-03-palin-style_N.htm
  • Geranios, Nicholas K. "Palin switched colleges 6 times in 6 years." Associated Press. September 4, 2008. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=5728215
  • Goldsmith, Samuel and Lisi, Clemente. "Palin admits her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant." New York Post. September 1, 2008. http://www.nypost.com/seven/09012008/news/nationalnews/palin_admits_her_17_year_old_daughter_is_127025.htm
  • Gonzales, Angel and Bernton, Hal. "Windfall lets Alaska rake in billions from Big Oil." Seattle Times. August 10, 2008. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008103325_alaskatax07.html
  • Holmes, Elizabeth and Meckler, Laura. "Record contradicts Palin's 'Bridge' claims." Wall Street Journal. September 9, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122090791901411709.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
  • Komarnitsky, S.J. "Foes back off their push to recall mayor." Anchorage Daily News. February 11, 1997. http://www.adn.com/sarah-palin/story/513745.html
  • Kornblut, Anne E. "Palin energizing women from all walks of life." Washington Post. September 10, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/09/AR2008090903045.html?hpid=topnews
  • Kuhnhenn, Jim. “Palin says Obama ‘palling around’ with terrorists.” Associated Press. October 4, 2008. http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D93JSBFO0&show_article=1
  • Leonard, Tom. "Sarah Palin: Don't use our Barracuda song as your anthem, says rock band Heart." The Telegraph. September 10, 2008. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/uselection2008/johnmccain/2706276/Sarah-Palin-Dont-use-our-Barracuda-song-as-your-anthem-says-rock-band-Heart.html
  • Lewis, Charles. "Alaska shrugs off Palin's faith." National Post. September 10, 2008. http://www.nationalpost.com/news/world/story.html?id=780757
  • Luo, Michael and Wayne, Leslie. "Palin aides defend billing state for time at home." New York Times. September 9, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/10/us/politics/10billing.html?em
  • Mitchell, Greg. "Archives of Alaska's papers reveal disturbing -- and goofy -- details from Palin's past." Editor and Publisher. September 3, 2008. http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003845449
  • Mooney, Brian C. "Parties jockey to guide flood of data about Palin." Boston Globe. September 10, 2008. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/09/10/parties_jockey_to_guide_flood_of_data_about_palin/
  • Moore, Martha T. "Poll: Huge effect of Palin pick cuts both ways." USA Today. September 12, 2008. http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-09-11-veep_N.htm
  • Newton-Small, Jay. "Transcript: Time's interview with Sarah Palin." Time. August 29, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1837536-1,00.html
  • Quinn, Steve. "Palin strikes a pose for Vogue." Associated Press. December 13, 2007. http://dwb.adn.com/news/alaska/ap_alaska/story/9517349p-9427963c.html
  • Sargent, Greg. "Fun facts about Wasilla." September 2, 2008. Talking Points Memo. http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/fun_facts_about_wasilla.php
  • Schapiro, Rich. "What's in the Palin children's names? Fish, for one." New York Daily News. August 31, 2008. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/republican_race/2008/08/30/2008-08-30_whats_in_the_palin_childrens_names_fish_.html
  • Seeyle, Katharine Q. "Palin's TV ratings nearly match Obama's." New York Times. September 4, 2008. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/palins-tv-ratings-nearly-match-obamas/
  • Slevin, Peter. "Ohio crowd says 'no pit bull!'" Washington Post. September 9, 2008. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/09/09/ohio_crowd_says_no_pit_bull.html
  • Stephen, Chris. “‘Pitbull’ Palin bites McCain’s poll ratings.” The Scotsman. October 16, 2008. http://news.scotsman.com/world/US-election-39Pitbull39-Palin-bites.4596421.jp
  • Thornburgh, Nathan. "Mayor Palin: A rough record." Time. September 2, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1837918,00.html
  • Torry, Jack and Hallett, Joe. “Palin holds her own in debate, steering answers to topics she knows well.” Columbus Dispatch. October 2, 2008. http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/10/02/veepanalysis.html?sid=101
  • Vandehei, Jim and Allen, Mike. "Obama, Dems, sharpen personal attacks on Palin." Politico. September 9, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13315.html
  • Williams, Joseph. "A Valentine to evangelical base." Boston Globe. August 30, 2008. http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/articles/2008/08/30/a_valentine_to_evangelical_base/?p1=Well_MostPop_Emailed5
  • Yardley, William. "Palin's start in Alaska: not politics as usual." New York Times. September 2, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/03/us/politics/03wasilla.html?em
  • "About the governor." State of Alaska. http://gov.state.ak.us/bio.html
  • "Bible Week." Alaska Governor's Office. October 17, 2007. http://gov.state.ak.us/archive-48735.html
  • "Factbox: The life of McCain pick Sarah Palin." Reuters. September 11, 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSN1047759920080911
  • "Introduction." Alaskan Independence Party. http://www.akip.org/introduction.html
  • "National Day of Prayer." Alaska Governor's Office. April 15, 2008. http://gov.state.ak.us/archive-17153.html
  • "Palin bump brings McCain 7 million in one day." AFP. August 31, 2008. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080831/pl_afp/usvotemccainfinance
  • “Palin draws overflow crowd at Home Depot Center.” CBS. October 4, 2008. http://cbs2.com/politics/Sarah.Palin.Carson.2.832634.html
  • "Palin, Sarah (1964-)." Biography. http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=360398&page=print
  • "Palin's maverick trail goes from city hall to gov's mansion." CNN. September 3, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/03/palin.track.record/?iref=hpmostpop
  • "Sarah Palin: A fresh perspective." John McCain.com. http://www.johnmccain.com/about/governorpalin.htm
  • "Sarah Palin on the issues." On the Issues. http://www.ontheissues.org/Sarah_Palin.htm
  • "Sarah Palin: 10 things we've learnt." BBC. September 10, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7607039.stm

More to Explore