Governor Palin making entrance with themes of reform, prosperity

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the handpicked running mate of presidential candidate John McCain, will introduce herself to US voters in a primetime address on Wednesday night. ( dpa )

Earlier in the evening, 2,380 national convention delegates will formally nominate Palin and McCain as the centre-right Republican Party's presidential ticket.

Convention organizers said that Wednesday's schedule, revised after Monday's programme was scuttled out of respect for victims of Hurricane Gustav, would emphasize issues of reform and prosperity.

McCain, 72, a US senator from Arizona, landed Wednesday morning in Minnesota and will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night.

Palin, 44, was little-known outside her remote home state before being introduced Friday as McCain's unexpected choice for the vice presidential slot.

She was the mayor of a small Alaska town before her election as governor in 2006 on a reformist agenda. Palin's choice has set off a debate about her relative inexperience, and raised comparisons to both four-year US Senator Barack Obama, the opposition Democratic Party's presidential nominee, and to McCain, a former Vietnam War POW with 26 years in Congress.

Palin becomes only the second woman on a US major-party national ticket. Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984 for the centre-left Democrats against then-president Ronald Reagan, who won re-election easily.

The selection of Palin was seen as an attempt to sway some disgruntled supporters of former first lady Hillary Clinton, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to Obama and was passed over as his running mate. Obama chose Delaware Senator Joe Biden for the vice presidential slot late last month, before the Democratic National Convention last week in Denver, Colorado.

McCain, long considered a maverick within his own party, seems to have solidified his support among the conservative Republican base with the choice of Palin.

Texas delegate Tammi Sturm supported former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a favourite of conservatives early in the Republican primaries, before switching to McCain when Romney quit the race.

"I think she is wonderful, a wonderful choice, just a very strong female leader," Sturm said.

Palin is a life-long member of the National Rifle Association, which advocates for the traditional gun rights that are widely cherished by conseravatives and guaranteed in the US Constitution.

The mother of five, including a boy born this spring with the genetic abnormality Down syndrome, has a strong track record of opposing abortion, making her immediately popular with the pro-life Republican base.

Her policies on reproductive issues, including opposition to sex education in public schools, have been in high focus since Monday, when Palin and her husband announced that one of their daughters, Bristol, 17, was pregnant and planning to marry the teenage father of the unborn child.

Although the Palins asked for privacy from the media, Bristol and her future husband, Levi Johnston, were among the Palin family members welcoming McCain at the airport in Minnesota on Wednesday, televised images showed.

McCain put both his arms around the hand-holding couple while talking to them, then shook Johnston's hand.

Palin will be introduced Wednesday night by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican leading a heavily Democratic state. Hawaii, Obama's birthplace, shares Alaska's separation from the other 48 or "continental" United States.

Other speakers Wednesday are to include three of the Republican presidential hopefuls defeated by McCain earlier this year: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Former computer executive Carly Fiorina, a top McCain economic advisor, is also speaking on a night when issues such as the economy, trade, health care and the environment are expected to receive heavy emphasis.

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