You know it's not politics-as-usual when you're attending a meeting of the nation's governors and one of them goes into labor. When -- just a few months later -- that new mother is preparing to speak to the Republican National Convention as the party's vice-presidential candidate, you know that politics-as-usual is gone for good.
We've heard a lot about Sarah Palin, the governor of our 49th state, whose acceptance speech is expected tonight. But we are likely less familiar with the Republican woman governor of our 50th state -- Linda Lingle of Hawaii -- who was with Palin when the Alaskan discovered it was time to get to the hospital.
"We were at a national governors meeting on energy in Dallas when Sarah went into labor," said Lingle. "She handled it remarkably, and it's a great example of her talents and toughness. After the keynote speaker canceled at the last minute, Sarah stepped in. She gave an outstanding address on strategic energy policy. Then she boarded a plane back to Alaska to deliver."
Though Lingle didn't know it, Palin was aware this delivery would be different from her others. She would give birth to little Trig, who has Down syndrome. Palin's decision to give Trig life has become a rallying cry for social conservatives.
Lingle and Palin have shared more than this poignant moment. They have both built political careers fighting corruption, sometimes bucking their own party. Both were first mayors, then governors. "Small cities and states are often the toughest places to be CEO," said Lingle. "There's constant accountability, and nowhere to hide."
Lingle's political career, like Palin's, has been a string of firsts. She's the first woman and the first Jewish person to be governor of Hawaii, as well as the state's first Republican governor in almost 50 years.
In 2006, Lingle won reelection by the largest margin in any gubernatorial race in Hawaiian history -- 63 to 35 percent. Palin is also popular in her home state, with an approval rating of 80 percent.
Though Democrats often use the rhetoric of "women's issues," Lingle sees the Republican Party as American women's natural political home. On issues such as national security and the economy, GOP positions resonate with many women, she says.
Yet the Republican Big Tent offers room for diversity of opinion, Lingle said. On abortion, Palin is prolife, while Lingle is prochoice, although she favors parental consent and a ban on a type of late-term abortion.
The two governors also differ in their approach to energy. Palin emphasizes drilling for more oil, while Lingle places more weight on renewable energy sources. "There's room for both of us in leadership roles in the Republican Party," said Lingle.
The Republican convention has drawn a broad array of women. Tonight, two of the nation's most innovative business leaders will take the podium: Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard's former CEO, and Meg Whitman, the former president of eBay.
When Palin was introduced to the American people, she said: "Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
We might be surprised at which political party finally breaks through.