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A presidential race for the history books

This is a campaign for the ages. John McCain, with his vice presidential choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, just ensured that the country will have either its first African American president or its first female vice president.

Sen. McCain clearly aims to woo Hillary Clinton supporters disappointed their candidate didn't make it onto the Democratic ballot in either the No. 1 or No. 2 slot.

Gov. Palin, 44, is a newcomer to national politics, but she could be attractive to many potential voters, male and female.

She's an outdoorswoman who played point guard on a state championship high school basketball team. She won the governorship in 2006 after campaigning as a reformer – in a state whose long-time U.S. senator is now under indictment.

She has five children – the youngest born in April – and is strongly anti-abortion and pro-NRA. Adding to that diverse resume, she was runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant. Already, the blogosphere and water cooler chat have dubbed her “hot” – not something widely said of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

Whether that adds up to a candidate who'll lure disgruntled Hillary-ites won't be known until November.

Reactions Friday seemed split. Some women were outraged Sen. McCain would choose someone whose strongest attribute seems to be her gender. She has no foreign policy experience and precious little at the state level. She's been governor only since 2006, and of a state with a population – 670,000 – about the size of Charlotte. Previously she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 5,470.

McCain is 72 (his birthday was Friday) and he's had cancer. He's reported to be cancer-free and in good health. But any actuarial table will show he's less likely to live through an eight-year set of presidential terms than a 47-year-old like Democrat Barack Obama.

What voters want most in a vice presidential candidate is someone who can competently take over if necessary. Will Gov. Palin reassure voters or scare them?

Another unknown: How many Clinton supporters, who presumably support abortion rights as Sen. Clinton does, would vote for a strong anti-abortion ticket, as McCain-Palin would be?

Plenty of women are excited to have a woman on the ticket after all, though on a different party than what they'd expected. Gov. Palin is telegenic, speaks forthrightly and may not be the kind of doctrinaire conservative that scares some independent voters. Her husband, Todd, and son Track aren't even registered Republicans.

And while she's hasn't – yet – undergone the intense media scrutiny that she surely will, if it becomes too harsh or misogynistic, she may well win some sympathy votes from voters who might otherwise prefer someone less conservative.

This election season continues to be the most interesting in memory. Not even an Aaron Sorkin script could top it.

CMS's gains in SAT outstrip nation, state

This year's SAT results were good news for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. SAT scores rose, outstripping national and statewide gains. CMS officials are especially proud, given that nationwide scores remained flat.

Said Superintendent Peter Gorman: “These scores are going in the right direction. Two years ago, our scores were 17 points below the state average; today we're tied. We'll continue to raise the rigor in our high schools across the board as part of our commitment to increasing academic achievement – and that should keep our SAT scores rising.”

He's right to do so, though we don't think the SAT is a good indicator of a student's potential success in college. Research backs up that contention. That's one reason an increasing number of colleges and universities, including Wake Forest, no longer require applicants to submit SAT scores for admission.

But the tests can be an apt snapshot of what a student is learning and one barometer of academic readiness. Since many schools of higher learning still rely on them for admissions, public schools must pay attention to them.

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