ABC News' Imtiyaz Delawala Reports: A day after Sen. Barack Obama campaigned with former Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton in Florida, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin slammed him for not seriously considering Clinton to be his second-in-command, citing Obama's decision as an example of the barriers women face in the workplace.
"When it came time for choosing, somehow Barack Obama just couldn't bring himself to pick the woman who got 18 million votes in his primary, and that seems to be too familiar a story isn't it?" Palin said at a rally in Henderson, NV yesterday. "How it is for so many American women that the qualifications are there, but for some reason the promotion never comes?
In stronger language than Palin has used on the campaign trail before, the comments were part of a broader attempt to sell herself as an advocate for women and working numbers at a time when Palin's support among women has slipped dramatically in national polls since becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee.
"You've got to ask yourself why was Senator Hillary Clinton not even vetted by the Obama campaign?" Palin continued. "Why did it take 24 years, an entire generation from the time Geraldine Ferraro made her pioneering bid until the next time that a woman was asked to join a national ticket?"
"In the long history of our country, 74 people have held the position of President or Vice-President, and why have the major parties given America only two chances to even consider a woman for either office?" Palin asked. "This glass ceiling, it is still there, but it's about time that we shattered that glass ceiling once and for all."
Clinton used the "glass ceiling" metaphor during her Democratic primary run, including in her concession speech in June ending her nomination, when she told supporters, "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it."
Palin sought to tie her critique of Obama’s tax plans with her support for working women, while charging that Obama does not pay women in his Senate office at the same level as men, raising the issue as one of "fundamental fairness" that she would address as an advocate for working women.
"Out on the stump he talks a good game about equal pay for equal work, but according to the Senate pay roll records women on his own staff get just 83 cents for every dollar that the men get," Palin said of Obama. "That's 9,000 dollars less every year that he pays the guys. Does he think that the women aren't working as hard? Does he think that they are 17 percent less productive?"
The Palin campaign cited press reports from last month and Senate records to back its claims on Obama's pay to Senate staffers. The discrepancy, however, appears be that more top level staffers in Obama's Senate office are men, and therefore have higher pay. The Obama campaign points to the many senior-level female staffers currently employed on the presidential campaign trial.
In a statement last night, Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn added, "Sen. Obama has fought for equal pay for an equal day's work, while Sen. McCain has suggested that women don't get equal pay because they need more education and training. While Sen. Obama has proposed a plan to help working women, the McCain-Palin campaign offers just more negative attacks and distortions."
Palin has spent recent days on the campaign trail criticizing Obama's tax policies as having elements of “socialism” that would redistribute wealth and hurt small businesses, while promoting the case of “Joe the Plumber.” Yesterday, Palin said that “women would suffer just as much from the massive tax increase that Sen. Obama proposes.”
Palin said. "The working women of this country, those who work inside the home and outside of the home, they're overlooked by politicians in Washington, and Barack Obama hasn't given us a single reason to believe that he would be any better."
Palin also emphasized her own experience as a working mother, saying she would serve as an advocate for working women and for females around the world as vice president.
"When we make laws in Washington...they need to serve the mothers who are taking care of their families," Palin said. "To make all this happen, working mothers need an advocate, and they will have one when this working mother is working for all of you in the White House."
Palin praised her husband Todd for his support while she has pursued her political career, while saying said that federal laws need to better support working mothers -- especially those in households without a father.
"I've been very, very blessed to have a husband who's supported me along the way. He's a great dad who doesn't disappear at bath time or run from diaper duty, and I appreciate that," Palin added. "But a lot of women have it much, much harder than I’ve had it. And they need child care, which today can cost some families a third of their household budget. And they need reforms in labor laws that allow greater flexibility in the workplace, including more tele-commuting. And they need a tax code that doesn’t penalize working families."
As she has done before on the campaign trail, Palin cited the positive impact that Title IX had on her career.
"Women of my generation were allowed finally to make more of our own choices with education, with career, and I have never forgotten that we owe that opportunity to women, to feminists who came before us," Palin said. "The belief in equal opportunity is not just the cause of feminists, it's the creed of our country -- equal opportunity."
Palin said that if elected, she would seek to spread that opportunity to other women around the world, especially for those in countries facing persecution where women are "murdered in honor killings, places where women are sold like commodities in the nightmare world of the sex trade, and places where baby girls are unwelcome as a matter of state policy and their mothers are forced to have abortions."
“Now no one person, no one leader, can bring an end to all of those ills, to all of the injustices inflicting upon women,” Palin said. “But I can promise you this, if I am elected, these women, too, will have an advocate and a defender in the 47th vice president of the United States.”
Palin was joined on stage by five women who endorsed her candidacy, including two members of the Democratic National Platform Committee, two leaders of chapters of the National Organization of Women, and a former editor of Ms. Magazine. Lynn Rothschild, a Democratic National Platform Committee member and prominent supporter of Sen. Clinton, had endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket in September, but had not appeared publicly with Palin. Prameela Bartholomeusz also served on the Democratic Platform Committee..
Palin was also joined by Linda Klinge, the current vice president of the Oregon Chapter of the National Organization for Women. Shelly Mandell, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, also appeared in Henderson, and had previously endorsed Palin at a public rally in Carson, CA earlier this month.
The campaign has often had former Hillary Clinton supporters introduce Palin at campaign events since her nomination, in an attempt to win over disaffected Clinton supporters. After introducing the women, Palin sought to dispute the idea that the Democratic ticket would easily win the female vote.
"Our opponents think that they have the women's vote all locked up which is a little presumptuous since only our side has a woman on the ticket," Palin said to strong applause.
But the McCain-Palin ticket faces an uphill battle. An ABC News-Washington Post poll earlier this month showed Palin’s support has slipped dramatically in polls in the weeks since her nomination, with six in ten Americans doubting her qualifications for office and fewer than half convinced of her grasp of complex issues. Just 35 percent say Palin has the experience it takes to serve effectively as president.
And a new ABC News-Washington Post poll this week showed that 52 percent of likely voters say McCain's pick of Palin has made them less confident in the kind of decisions he'd make as president, up 13 points since just after the selection.