Arkansas GOP Pleasantly Surprised by McCain VP Pick

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Top Republicans in Arkansas say they're pleasantly surprised with John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate --- even though they had held out hope fellow Arkansan Mike Huckabee was in the running for the post.

But Huckabee himself praised Palin as a smart pick for McCain and praised Palin's conservative credentials.

Huckabee won Arkansas' primary in February and most delegates from his home state headed to the Republican National Convention next week had said in surveys they hoped the former governor would be chosen as McCain's running mate. Huckabee dropped out of the presidential race in March after McCain won enough delegates to claim the nomination.

Doug Matayo, a delegate who had supported Huckabee, says he sees similarities between Huckabee and Palin. Matayo says he believed Palin was a conservative who could also appeal to moderates and independents.

Karen Ray, executive director of the state GOP, praised McCain for choosing a woman as his running mate.

The suggestion that McCain would be able to pick up more women voters by Palin's choice was quickly dismissed by state Democrats.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)