VIENNA, Ohio (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain has outlined running mate Sarah Palin’s job description if they win the White House -- and energy tops the list, just like it did for Dick Cheney in the Bush administration.
Palin, the Alaska governor whose addition to the Republican ticket has energized conservative supporters, said on Tuesday she and the Arizona senator had talked about her role if they beat Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the November 4 election.
“John and I, we’ve discussed some new responsibilities that I‘m going to have as vice president,” Palin told a rally in the electoral battleground state of Ohio.
“First, I’ll help to lead the mission of energy security.”
Cheney, considered one of the most powerful vice presidents in U.S. history, spearheaded President George W. Bush’s energy task force, which drew criticism from Democrats and environmentalists for being secretive.
Palin cited her experience taking on “the big oil company interests” in Alaska as part of her qualifications for dealing with energy issues, which have come to dominate the election as high gasoline prices sting American consumers.
“I got agreements through competition to build a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline and that’s going to feed very hungry markets when it’s built,” she said.
“When that last section of pipe is laid, America will be one step closer to energy independence and that’s good for our economy and it’s good for our security.”
The pipeline championed by Palin, which would carry natural gas from Alaska to Canada and then to the lower 48 states on existing pipelines, has been envisioned since the 1970s but it remains on the drawing board and no ground has been broken.
In August, the Alaska state legislature endorsed Palin’s recommendation to award a license to TransCanada Corp to build a 1,715-mile (2,760-km) pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Western Canada.
But there is no commitment to actually start construction and the Canadian company must convince the state’s major gas producers that its project is the best bet.
Palin, who voiced support for alternative fuels and offshore drilling, said another vice presidential role would include boosting transparency in government.
“I‘m going to help lead the mission of reforming government. We’re going to make government more transparent and more accountable,” she said.
“In Alaska we have done things like put the state checkbook online so that everyone can see where their money goes in government. And in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to bring that kind of openness to Washington.”
Lastly, Palin said she would use her role as the nation’s second-in-command to advocate for families and handicapped children.
“I’ve told Sen. McCain about a few things I’ve learned as governor and learned as a mom,” she said, mentioning efforts to boost funding for children with special needs in Alaska and the resonance of having an infant son with Downs Syndrome. “We’re going to make sure that government is on their side too.”
Critics have charged that Palin, little known outside Alaska before McCain chose her as his running mate, is too inexperienced to be a heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency.
The McCain campaign counters that she has more executive experience as governor and as a former mayor than rivals Obama and Biden combined.
Editing by John O'Callaghan