The barracuda is a believer

PalinI'm still in Denver recovering from the awesome experience of covering the Democratic National Convention. I have no idea how reporters can work this hard and with these long hours and then turn around and do it all again next week in St. Paul. But before the dew even dried this morning, there was the surprise announcement that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (nickname: Barracuda) had been chosen to round out the Republican ticket. Immediately I had reporters asking me if I knew anything about her religious background. If former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman -- two names on Sen. John McCain's short list -- had been picked, there would have been plenty of ink spilled already on their religious views. But Palin is a complete dark horse.

She is known for being both personally and politically pro-life. While currently 90 percent of children with Down Syndrome are aborted, Palin gave birth to her fifth child -- a son with Down Syndrome -- earlier this year. And she's both culturally and economically conservative.

I found a lengthy Alaska Daily News profile from 2006 that has some information:

Palin's parents say they are not political and don't know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years. Palin doesn't brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn't prevent others from doing so.

There was also this:

A significant part of Palin's base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).

Queerty (motto: "Free of an agenda, except that gay one") reports that she's "relatively good on gay issues":

While she opposes gay marriage - as all the national contenders do - Palin's frequently come out in support of her gay friends and insists she's open to discussions on discrimination legislation. Palin told an Alaska newspaper that she's "not out to judge" gay people. She went on to say that she believes "that honoring the family structure is that important," and would thus oppose a gay marriage measure. She previously supported a 1998 bill to ban gay marriage.

Despite her opposition to same-sex nuptials, Palin helped move Alaska toward a more inclusive frontier in 2006 when she blocked a bill that would have prohibited gay benefits in the state.

As the media get acquainted with this fishing, mooseburger-eating former beauty contestant, there will be lots of discussion over her faith and values. The Boston Globe is gathering information already. How will everyone else handle it?

This early Bloomberg report hinted at some of the issues:

Palin should also ease the worries of the Republican Party's social conservative base. Abortion foes have been skittish about McCain, who supports stem-cell research and has said he wants to broaden the party's plank on abortion to include exceptions in cases of rape and when the life of the mother is at risk.

Palin has a strong anti-abortion record. She is a member of Feminists for Life, a group that works to make health-care and child-care resources available to "pregnant or parenting students,'' according to the group's Web site.

The story went on to quote social conservatives calling the pick a "grand slam." Whether or not that's true, this will certainly have implications in decisions religious voters will be making. We'll watch for coverage of that angle.

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