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Republicans Rally Around Palin as McCain's Running Mate

Senator John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate is proving to be very popular with delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Most delegates remain supportive of Palin following revelations that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, who is not married, is pregnant. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has been talking to some of the convention delegates and has this report from St. Paul.

Senator McCain's decision to ask Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate has energized a party, analysts say, is badly in need of a boost.

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback tells VOA that the Palin selection has generated a lot of excitement among social conservatives in a very short time.

"They are really excited," said Senator Brownback. "They are pumped about it, and they have not been excited in three years. They are pleased to see somebody who lives the life and who is authentic in her faith and the way she puts herself forward. They are very excited about it."

Delegates here admire Palin's opposition to abortion, her support of gun ownership rights and the fact that she is a hunter. They also see her as a role model - a working mother who decided to keep her most recent baby, even though the child has Down syndrome.

So far, that enthusiasm has apparently not been dampened by revelations that Palin's unmarried daughter Bristol is pregnant. The family says Bristol will keep the baby and will marry the father.

On another front, Governor Palin has hired a lawyer in connection with an ethics probe in her home state of Alaska, which so far has proven to be only a minor distraction.

Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin says most of the delegates are very impressed with Palin and are sympathetic to her family situation.

"It just shows that she is a real woman that has everyday problems like American families go through," said Congresswoman Fallin. "Frankly, I hope that she really talks about how we need to work on teenage pregnancy. I know in my state, 40 percent of the babies who are born are born to unwed mothers."

McCain announced Palin as his vice presidential selection last Friday, and in the process set off an explosion of support among social conservatives.

"I know that it will demand the best that I have to give and I promise nothing less," said Governor Palin.

Texas delegate Marian Stanko says the Palin selection triggered a strong response among fellow Republicans in her home area.

"It was absolutely electrifying," said Marian Stanko. "The mood had completely shifted upward and onward. Not just women, but there were men calling in saying they were onboard to help, and we had volunteers showing up at our headquarters."

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is an influential force within the Republican Party on economic issues. Norquist says Palin's selection will bolster the party among religious conservatives in the November election.

"Some people talk the talk on traditional values," said Norquist. "This is a woman who has actually lived those values, and that really resonates with the religious Republican conservatives, Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants."

Several conservative radio talk show hosts are doing their programs from St. Paul this week, and they say Palin has proven to be a popular choice with their listeners.

Syndicated talk show host Mike Gallagher reaches an audience of nearly four million listeners each day.

"This is a gun-loving, hockey-mom, mother of five juggling a career and a staunch pro-life conservative," said Gallagher. "I have to tell you, it does not get any better for conservatives if you had written this in a Hollywood script."

Democrats question whether Palin has enough experience to be vice president, and whether she is too conservative in her social views.

Palin has been governor of Alaska less than two years, and prior to that she served as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, which has a population of about 9,000.

Palin's most important test could come in early October when she will participate in a vice presidential debate with Senator Joseph Biden, the vice presidential running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.