VP pick makes Pelosi share stage

Move over Nancy Pelosi. There’s a new mother of five on the political stage.

At least until the election is over — but perhaps for years afterward — Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate, will capture more of the spotlight than the first female Speaker of the House.


Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Small Florida county that backed Trump one of two targeted by Russians: reports MORE’s (Ariz.) surprise selection of the Republican governor of Alaska has scrambled the traditional gender politics of the country. The party that has traditionally attracted more women now will run against one. And on the flip side, Republicans find themselves in the turbulent debates on work-and-parenting balance and teen pregnancy.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) was publicly neutral in the Democratic presidential primary, but many of her close allies backed Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden calls for unity, jabs at Trump in campaign launch Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Lewandowski: Why Joe Biden won't make it to the White House — again MORE (Ill.) over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). Earlier this year, the Speaker’s stance on superdelegates in the Democratic primary triggered friction with influential backers of Clinton. It also sparked speculation that the California lawmaker privately supported Obama.

Even though they’re both barrier-breaking women in Congress, Pelosi and Clinton have not forged a strong relationship.

Clinton was not mentioned in Pelosi’s new book, Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters.

After Obama defeated Clinton, Democrats did not expect the Illinois senator to select the former first lady as his running mate. Since Republicans had never selected a female vice presidential candidate, it was assumed by many that Pelosi would be the most powerful female politician for years to come.

That notion changed with McCain’s decision to put Palin on the ticket.

The Pelosi-Palin dynamic could be intriguing over the next two months and perhaps beyond.

Pelosi and Palin are both religious mothers of five children who have defeated established male politicians to attain their respective positions of top House Democrat and governor. But they are polar opposites on a range of issues, such as gun control, stem cell research and energy.

The Speaker has not been shy in criticizing McCain, but did not lambaste Palin when she was announced as McCain’s running mate on Friday.

Pelosi, who has made much of her status as the first woman Speaker, offered no nod to the historic aspect of the first woman on a Republican ticket. But neither did she deride Palin’s experience. Instead, she decided to focus on McCain’s judgment in selecting her, suggesting there were better-qualified women who could have  been chosen, without naming any.

“Why, with so many other qualified women and men in his party, did John McCain choose Sarah Palin?” Pelosi said in the statement. “Sarah Palin is not the right choice. She shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies.”

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly says there’s no awkwardness for Pelosi to attack another woman who’s breaking ground in politics.

“It’s fair game to look at the record,” Daly said. “If you look at the record, it’s pretty extreme.”

Pelosi has also stayed mute on the questions about working motherhood and Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter.

That’s not true of the rest of the country, particularly women, said Barbara Kellerman, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who studies women in politics.

“Women are debating motherhood and Palin’s daughter in a way that men don’t,” Kellerman said.

The wording of Pelosi’s statement may reflect a rapid-response desire to counter the McCain campaign effort to appeal to women voters who remain upset with how the Democratic primary played out.

Pelosi made it clear in her statement that Palin is opposed to abortion rights, a stance at odds with most Clinton voters.

At the Democratic convention last week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), formerly one of Clinton’s staunchest supporters, said choosing a woman for vice president wouldn’t win over Clinton’s voters.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren policy ideas show signs of paying off Biden at campaign kickoff event: I don't have to be 'angry' to win Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem MORE’s supporters understand we can’t give away the Supreme Court because of Roe v. Wade and equal pay,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters Tuesday.

Speaking at a breakfast concentrated on women’s issues before Palin was picked, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said women voters will be listening for “whoever can say, ‘I understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes.’”

Kellerman said Palin shouldn’t be expected to bring in Clinton voters or close the Republican Party’s “gender gap,” but thinks Democrats may be dismissing her too easily. For starters, Palin has reached this point in politics without a lot of the advantages enjoyed by both Pelosi and Clinton.

“She’s attractive and appealing in a thousand different ways,” Kellerman said. “This is not a woman who should be in any way underestimated.”

Bob Cusack contributed to this article.