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John McCain & Sarah Palin on Shattering the Glass Ceiling

John McCain & Sarah Palin on Shattering the Glass Ceiling
Todd and Sarah Palin with son Trig Palin, John McCain and Cindy McCain.
Michael O’Neill

08/29/2008 AT 08:30 PM EDT

Even the kids were in the dark.

Meghan McCain, 23, didn't find out until a few hours before the rest of the nation. Track Palin, 19, an Army private on base in Fairbanks, Alaska, got the news in a text message an hour before his mother, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took the stage in Dayton, Ohio, as John McCain's pick to be his running mate. "I said, 'Track! Turn the TV on in an hour,'" Sarah Palin told PEOPLE. "He says, 'What does this mean? Am I going to have to crawl in a hole?' And I said, 'No!' Because he had no idea; he doesn't even know where we are."

Where they were was the Nutter Center college sports arena in Dayton, Ohio. And PEOPLE was there for an exclusive backstage interview with the McCain and Palin families suddenly joined in the campaign for the White House. Sarah Palin, in ruby red peep-toe platform heels that showed off a pink French-style pedicure, first ducked into a holding room to change the diaper of her just-up-from-a-nap 4 1/2-month-old son, Trig.

The two families were all smiles...

Meghan, what did you tell your father about his selection?
MEGHAN MCCAIN: It's girl power and you know I'm all about that. She's very smart, has a sweet family. Her son's in the military and my brothers are in the military. We have a lot in common. This is my dream choice. I almost started crying on stage – and I am not a crier – when they were talking about this being the anniversary of women's suffrage. I couldn't be more proud. It's also a reinvention of the Republican Party. She's such a cool role model – and she's got great shoes! (Laughs)

What does Governor Palin need to know about working with your dad?
MEGHAN: He likes to get up early in the morning and go. Seems like she likes to do that too. I guess with a baby...
JOHN MCCAIN: ... she has to be. (Laughter)
SARAH PALIN: Morning person. Yup. We don't sleep much. Too much to do. What I've had to do, though, is in the middle of the night, put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump. Do a couple of things different and still get it all done.

As a new mom, how are you going to juggle all this?
SARAH: I am thankful to be married to a man who loves being a dad as much as I love being a mom, so he is my strength. And practically speaking, we have a great network of help with lots of grandparents and aunties and uncles all around us. We have a lot of help.

So will your husband be on leave now indefinitely to be Mr. Mom?
SARAH: I would say so, yes.

Gov. Palin, when you were 13 weeks pregnant, last December, you had an amniocentesis that determined Trig had Down syndrome.
SARAH: I was grateful to have all those months to prepare. I can't imagine the moms that are surprised at the end. I think they have it a lot harder.

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