MONACA, Pennsylvania – Barack Obama distanced himself on Friday from his campaign’s initially critical statement about his rival John McCain’s choice of first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
McCain, a 72-year-old veteran Republican senator from Arizona, picked a political unknown and self-described “hockey mom” who will become the first woman Republican vice presidential candidate.
When the surprise decision was announced, Obama was on the tarmac at a Denver airport preparing to depart for a bus tour in the industrial Midwest with his running mate, Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate had just made history by becoming the first black to accept a major-party presidential nomination.
His spokesman, Bill Burton, issued a statement suggesting Palin was too inexperienced to be vice president. “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” it said.
The McCain campaign quickly shot back that it was “audacious” for aides to the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator to accuse Palin of inexperience.
Later in the day, Obama told reporters that the campaign’s early statement was “hair-trigger” and did not reflect his sentiments.
“I haven’t met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story, personal story,” he said while touring a biodiesel plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
Obama said the choice of Palin was “one more indicator of this country moving forward” and a hit against the glass ceiling that has limited women’s advancement.
In a phone call to Palin, Obama told her he thought she would be a terrific candidate and wished her luck “but not too much luck,” according to Robert Gibbs, his senior adviser.
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- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (McCain stands with his vice presidential running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 29, 2008)