It didn't take long for Republican John McCain to figure out how to regain the spotlight, following Democratic opponent Barack Obama's historic speech in front of 84,000 supporters the night before. ( dpa )
In a stunning move, McCain announced Friday he'd chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate.
McCain sent shockwaves through the political establishment by picking a little-known political figure from a remote state in the corner of North America, generating a massive media buzz that has already nudged Obama off the stage - at least for now.
At 44, Palin is a relative newcomer to politics and has not been tested on a national scale, something Democrats were quick to point out. But McCain's choice makes sense in many respects beyond the quick attention it has already garnered.
McCain needed someone who would attract his party's Republican base, which does not believe he is conservative enough and has been reluctant to get behind his White House bid. He's done that in Palin, a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association who opposes abortion rights and gay marriage.
Palin will also be the only one on the ballot with executive experience, running Alaska since winning the 2006 election. McCain, Obama and his vice presidential choice, Joe Biden, built their careers as legislators in the Senate.
Appearing with McCain at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, Palin touted her modest background and determination to clean up cronyism in government, records that will sit well with a working class hit by hard economic times. Her husband, Todd, is a production operator in Alaska's oil fields.
"I never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office," Palin said. "My husband and I, we both grew up working with our hands. I was just your average 'hockey mom' in Alaska, busy raising our kids."
Obama picked Biden for his foreign policy expertise as a senator, and to spearhead the attack on McCain's Iraq policy and support of President George W Bush. Palin will be a tricky target.
Her eldest of five children, 18-year-old Track, is in the US Army and will deploy to Iraq in September, and Biden will have to tread carefully.
But the Obama camp sees an opportunity in McCain's choice. For months, McCain has hammered Obama over his lack of foreign policy experience. Now the Obama camp is using Palin to do the same.
"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, referring to her pre-gubernatorial tenure as mayor of her hometown Wasilla.
The Democrats wrapped up their four-day convention on Thursday night in Denver, Colorado, and the Republicans are set to kick off their party on Monday.
The Democrats took major steps to close the divide in the party over Obama's defeat of Hillary Clinton for the nomination - an outcome that left many Clinton supporters bitter and uncertain over whether to support Obama.
With Palin, McCain will trying to win over Clinton supporters and take advantage of the progress she achieved in coming closer than any other woman to take the White House.
Palin appealed to 18 million people who voted for Clinton and, as Hillary said Tuesday, created 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that has historically held woman back.
"It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all," Palin said.