McCain Veepstakes

Author’s note 8/29/2008: When veteran Massachusetts political consultant Holly Robichaud returned from the Alaska Republican convention back in April, she strongly urged me to interview Gov. Sarah Palin and predicted the governor would be a political superstar. Thus, my first “veepstake” feature was done. But never did I expect the interview Holly so kindly arranged would prove prophetic …

Below is HUMAN EVENTS’ Veepstakes feature on Palin from earlier this year. Sarah Palin was the first veepstakes candidate profiled in a series of 15.

Since John McCain captured the Republican nomination for President last month, speculation in the press mounts about who he will name as his runningmate. Possibly the most intriguing name in the “veepstakes” is that of Sarah Palin, the first-ever woman Governor of Alaska, its youngest (44) governor, and the first to have been born after Alaska became a state. A onetime beauty queen, high school athlete, and TV reporter Palin was elected mayor of Washila in 1996 and, two years ago, made national headlines by defeating present and past governors to win the state’s highest office. Running on a solidly conservative platform and calling for Alaska to be more independent of Washington, Palin dispatched incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the 2006 GOP primary and went on to defeat former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in the fall by a margin of 48% to 41%.

Dedicated to making her state more self-reliant and freeing Alaska from unique federal constraints placed on it when it joined the union in 1959, Palin is a stalwart conservative on cultural issues. A proud member of Feminists for Life, the governor also opposes same-sex marriage or benefits going to couples that would equate to same-sex marriage. When a state court ruled last year that civil unions are to be permitted for same sex couples, Palin called for amending the state constitution to upend the ruling and to place it on the ballots before the voters.

The attractive and articulate Palin appears to be a candidate right out of Central Casting: she and North Slope worker husband Todd have four children (eldest son Track just joined the U.S. Army and is soon expected to be deployed to Iraq) and the governor is expecting their fifth child in May. “Why can’t she just be from another state?” is a lament heard often by Republicans who feel Palin is a natural for national office, if only she weren’t from a state that is not contiguous with the continental United States and brings only three electoral votes to the electoral column.

But the speculation persists and this was one of the questions colleagues Jim Seminara and Kami Dalton pressed Gov. Palin on in a recent interview. Would she accept second spot on a ticket headed by McCain, who disagrees with the governor on drilling for oil in the Alaskan Natural Wildlife Reserve?

“I’ll tell you, I think that the possibility of this ever happening is so far out there, that it’s tough to get my arms around and even contemplate,” Palin told us, so I don’t have an answer.” But, she quickly added, “I would like to see a governor on that ticket. I do think a governor understands, being on the front lines there, serving the constituents, how to administer. I think that’s very important for a team that would be serving in the White House.”

Palin also made it clear she didn’t believe that her differences over drilling for oil in ANWR with her party’s certain presidential nominee were insurmountable. In her words, “ I think he needs a running mate who sees the light regarding resource development, and how domestic resource development can help secure the United States. I’m very encouraged by McCain’s candidacy, though, because he so understands our national security issues. Much more so, obviously, than the Democrats who are running. So there’s encouragement there, and there’s hope there. I don’t think there’s any hope for Hillary or Barack to ever want to explore this idea of allowing federal lands that happen to be in the 49th state to be opened up for development.”

On ANWR drilling, which President Bush failed to get through the Senate when it was in Republican hands, the governor is still hopeful. “We want it to happen,” she said, “Alaskans want to open up the lands for that development, for the contributions that are potential here for the rest of the US.” Palin went on to note that “it’s really a pathetic situation

“And I have to ask lawmakers in Washington, DC, who have prohibited this drilling in ANWR if they’re doing all they can to secure the United States. When you consider, too, the geology that we’re talking about here, and the physical space that’s even needed to drill now, about a 2,000 acre plot, because of directional drilling and new technology, allowing such a small footprint to even be placed upon the tundra up north, it’s about 2,000 acres, which is smaller than the size of LAX and other big-city airports, that we would need to drill, and allow these resources to finally be tapped and to flow into hungry markets, and make us more secure. I think it’s so short-sighted.”

Less than a week before our interview, Palin sent a political shockwave out from the state Republican convention in Anchorage when she endorsed Lieutenant Gov. Sean Parnell in his challenge against the state’s 35-year Republican congressman-at-large, Don Young. The governor explained that the move is part of her vision of Alaska now “in a prime position to contribute more to the United States and to quit relying on the federal government to pay our bills for us.” As all these changes take place, she told us, “it’s going to take a change of character, and a change of personality, even, in terms of the representation that we have in Washington, D.C. coming from Alaska. Sean Parnell is, I think, a perfect person to manifest that change that is coming, that is needed, on behalf of Alaska. He wants to serve for the right reasons. He’s very selfless. And he’s very much a person taking ‘public service’ literally” — a not-too-subtle reference to VEECO Corporation head Rick Smith, a longtime Young associate, to bribery and conspiracy charges.

As for whether she would take the same stance against 40-year Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who is the subject of an FBI investigation as he seeks re-election, Palin would only say “I’m going to withhold judgment there. I don’t see a candidate who’s jumped into his race yet who I would feel wholeheartedly in support of at this point. So there’s still weeks, a couple months, even, to go, before we make the decision on Sen. Stevens.”

A McCain-Palin ticket in ’08? Unlikely. But Gov. Palin as a future Republican leader and politician worth watching? There’s little argument there.