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Republicans Await First National Speech by McCain's Vice Presidential Pick

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's running mate, little-known Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is expected to introduce herself to the nation in a speech later Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. In advance of the address, leading Republican women are defending Palin and accusing the news media of bias, amid a flurry of news reports raising questions about the governor's record, experience and family. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from St. Paul, Minnesota, which is hosting the convention.

Sarah Palin, the first-ever woman to be named to a Republican presidential ticket, is a staunch social conservative with a colorful persona. But last week's initial media excitement over her surprise choice as Senator McCain's running mate has given way to questions about her experience in national and international affairs. A growing wave of controversy has also surrounded the governor, from word of her unwed teenage daughter's pregnancy to her initial backing of a much-derided federal project in Alaska.

Amid the numerous press reports scrutinizing her, Republicans are going on the offensive. At a news conference at the convention site, prominent Republican women said Sarah Palin is being unfairly demonized by what they called biased news media. Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin criticized political commentators, who she says have questioned the wisdom of Palin accepting the vice presidential nomination when she has an infant with Downs Syndrome to care for.

"I am offended and insulted that the media has made much to do about that, [saying] 'how dare she run for vice president when she has a child with a disability'," said Rosario Marin.

Earlier, in a conference call with reporters, McCain campaign chairman Rick Davis complained of unfair news media treatment of Governor Palin and the Republican ticket as a whole.

"Certainly, her [Palin's] record deserves scrutiny," said Rick Davis. "But I think we ought to look at her record. The salacious nature with which these [news] outlets have tried to throw dirt at our candidate have been, I think, inappropriate."

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has also received harsh media scrutiny over past comments seen as belittling poor rural Americans, as well as for his relationship with a controversial pastor who, in his sermons, uttered remarks many considered to be anti-American.

Palin's address to the Republican National Convention is expected to draw a large national audience. The evening's speakers will also include three of Senator McCain's former challengers during the Republican primary season: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. The themes for the night's speeches are "reform and prosperity."

As with Tuesday's convention speeches, Wednesday's addresses are expected to be highly partisan, drawing sharp contrasts with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. At a campaign event in Ohio, Obama responded to Tuesday's Republican convention speeches that questioned his judgment on national security and foreign affairs.

"You did not hear a single word about the economy," said Barack Obama. "Not once did people [Republicans] mention the hardships people are going through. Not once did they mention how to keep jobs in Ohio. Not once did they mention what is to be done about all the retirees losing their pensions. Not once did they mention how to make sure people [can] stay in their homes."

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested outside the convention center over the last two days. Demonstrations are expected to continue for the remainder of the convention, which culminates Thursday with Senator McCain's acceptance speech.