ST PAUL - White House hopeful John McCain's vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin, pictured, made her high-stakes debut at the Republican party's convention yesterday following revelations about her family and her record as a little known Alaska governor.
Palin, 44, has stayed out of sight since the convention began on Monday as she huddled with McCain's advisers to prepare for a televised speech that could make or break the Republican ticket in its battle against Democratic foe Barack Obama.
The address allowed Palin to make her case directly to American voters amid a media storm over her unwed pregnant teenage daughter and allegations she abused her office as governor and sought out federal funds for projects opposed by McCain.
The Arizona senator faces criticism he made a reckless choice in Palin, who would be next in line for the presidency should anything befall the 72-year-old McCain.
But his campaign insisted the decision to pick her as McCain's running mate was carefully weighed, despite media reports McCain learned about Palin's pregnant daughter only the day before he chose her last week.
The Alaska governor, who is pro-life and a devout Christian, has energised the party's core conservative base, which rallied to Palin's defence after she revealed her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant and would marry the father.
But the flurry of disclosures served as an unwelcome distraction for the Republicans who were keen to recapture the spotlight from Obama, who became the first African-American to be nominated as a presidential candidate for a major US party last month.
Delegates cheered speeches hailing McCain as a born leader shaped by his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, with President George Bush telling the convention McCain was "ready to lead this nation".
Bush said McCain and Palin were the right ticket to lead the country. - Sapa-AFP