Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain today surprised the nation by picking first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. At 44, Palin is three years younger than Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama; she is the mother of five, including a son who is in the Army and a baby born in April with Down syndrome.

By choosing Palin, McCain is clearly hoping to appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters, including women who have been slow to warm to Obama. But it's a big question mark whether they will cotton to Palin's conservative leanings: She is antiabortion and an advocate of drilling offshore as well as in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

"We are ready for that gas to be tapped so we can fill a natural gas pipeline," Palin said during her state of the state address in January 2007. "I promise to vigorously defend Alaska's rights, as resource owners, to develop and receive appropriate value for our resources."

She added: "The amount of oil currently flowing through the Pipeline is less than half of what it was at its peak. We must look to responsible development throughout the state. . . . From further oil and gas development, to fishing, mining, timber, and tourism, these developments remain the core of our state. We provide stability in regulations for our developers.

Before defeating former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in 2006, Palin was mayor of the little town of Wasilla, as well as chairman of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska's oil and gas resources.

McCain, an opponent of opening ANWR, earlier this year said that he was willing to "go back and look at it again," setting off waves in the enviro world.

“My position has not changed,’’ McCain told The New York Times. "People have said to me, ‘I’m going to bring you new information about ANWR, how environmentally we can make it safe. I’ll be glad to
accept new information, but my position has not changed.’’

McCain did, however, switch gears on offshore drilling.

“One reason why I’m now far more in favor of offshore drilling is the price of oil,’’ he told the Times. But he said he did not believe the price was high enough to justify changing his position on drilling in ANWR.

Oh, by the way, Palin is also in favor of teaching Creationism in schools.