Republican John McCain shook up the presidential race with his surprise choice of little-known Alaska Gov.Sarah Palin as his running mate.
McCain, who turned 72 on Friday, worked to grab the spotlight with his selection of Palin, 44, the first woman to be a Republican vice presidential nominee. His choice was first reported by CNBC.
Palin, a self-described "hockey mom," is a conservative first-term governor of Alaska with strong anti-abortion views, a record of reform and fiscal conservatism and an outsider's perspective on Washington.
"She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second," McCain told a roaring crowd of 15,000 supporters in Dayton, Ohio.
Palin was chosen over a list of more experienced and better known contenders as the Arizona senator grabbed the political spotlight away from Democratic rival Barack Obama one day after Obama accepted his party's presidential nomination.
"Senator, I am honored to be chosen as your running mate. I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States," Palin said, joined on stage by her husband and family. She has five children ranging in age from 5 months to 18 years.
"As governor, I've stood up to the old politics as usual," she said. "This is a moment when principle and political independence matter."
McCain and Palin will face Obama and his No. 2, Joe Biden, in the Nov. 4 presidential election.
The pick followed days of speculation about McCain's choice, with most of the better-known contenders like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty eliminated over the last 24 hours.
Palin, former mayor of the town of Wasilla, is virtually unknown nationally.
That could hurt McCain's argument that Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is too inexperienced to handle the White House.
Palin's speech today as McCain's new running mate. See video at left.
But she could help him appeal to disaffected supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who lost a bruising primary to Obama.
Palin noted the achievements of Clinton and Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first woman vice presidential nominee of a major party.
"Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America," she said, referring to the 18 million votes Clinton received in the primaries. "But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
The choice of Palin was a risk for McCain given her lack of national experience, but her record in Alaska will help him reinforce his reform message.
- Alaska Governor Fits the Maverick Mold
- Video: Palin's Recent Appearances on CNBC
- Bowyer: How Palin Will Help McCain
Palin built a reputation as a reformer in a state that recently has been hit with corruption scandals. Elected in 2006, she is Alaska's first woman governor. She is also an avid sportswoman who would bring youth and vitality to the ticket.
McCain turned 72 on Friday and would be the oldest person to take office for a first term in the White House if elected.
"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton, who said she would work to overturn abortion rights and continue Republican economic policies.
In a joint statement, Obama and Biden congratulated Palin on her selection.
"It is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics," their statement said. "While we obviously have differences over how best to lead this country forward Governor Palin is an admirable person and will add a compelling new voice to this campaign."
If elected, Palin would be the first woman U.S. vice president, adding another historic element to a presidential race that has been filled with firsts.
Obama, 47, is the first black nominee of a major U.S. political party.
The choice of a vice president rarely has a major impact on the presidential race. Palin will meet Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a debate in October.
McCain and Republicans open their national convention on Monday.
In his acceptance speech on Thursday, Obama attacked McCain and linked him to the Republican policies of President George W. Bush.
He also said McCain was out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of Americans and had been "anything but independent" on key issues like the economy, health care and education.
Obama, running neck-and-neck with McCain in polls, has been urged by some Democrats to take a tougher line against his rival.
"Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time?" Obama asked, citing McCain's voting record in the U.S. Senate.
—Reuters and AP contributed to this report.