This Day In History: August 29

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Taking a calculated risk to appeal to conservative voters, Republican presidential nominee John McCain sets the political world abuzz when he announces the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on August 29, 2008.

At the time, Palin, a 44-year-old rising star known for her conservative stances and folksy charm, became the first female vice-presidential nominee for the Republican party. Advocates believed her identity as a mother of five and self-proclaimed “hockey mom” and “Mama Grizzly” would resonate with working class Americans, while her status as a relative newcomer to the national political stage offered a fresh perspective. 

Her detractors, however, noted her lack of foreign policy knowledge and experience, casting doubt on her ability to lead as a potential commander-in-chief. Prior to holding the governorship, Palin served as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, her hometown. 

“She’s not from these parts, and she’s not from Washington, but when you get to know her, you’re going to be as impressed as I am,” McCain, a 72-year-old Republican senator from Arizona, told a rally while making the announcement.  

Palin’s selection was polarizing and generated strong reactions. Comedians mocked her occasional gaffes, but she continued to draw huge crowds and media attention at her speaking events throughout the campaign.

Ultimately the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden delivered a decisive victory over McCain and Palin in the general election. In his 2018 memoir McCain, who died in 2018, expressed regret at not choosing Democrat Joe Lieberman as his running mate. 

Following the election, Palin returned to her role as governor of Alaska, but resigned on July 26, 2009. Since then, she has authored books, appeared on reality TV shows and worked as a contributor for Fox News. She lost a special U.S. House of Representatives election to Democrat Mary Peltola in 2022.

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