Washington, Sep.1 : Fresh questions have arisen over whether John McCain's running mate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been vetted properly before her selection.
According to The Times, 44-year-old Palin is now the subject of an Internet rumor that says that her fifth child, born in April with Down's Syndrome, is actually her 17-year-old daughter's.
Palin is already facing allegations that she tried to use her gubernatorial office to take revenge on her former brother-in-law.
An ethics investigation is already underway and will be released to the public on October 31 " five days before the presidential election.
When she made her debut speech on Friday she immediately touted her success in killing off the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere', which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan international airport, a project that had become a nationwide symbol of the wasteful, pork-barrel spending that McCain has made a cornerstone of his campaign.
Yet in a first unsettling revelation - which the McCain camp will hope does not become a pattern - the Anchorage Daily News reported yesterday that when she ran for governor, Palin campaigned on a "build the bridge" platform.
The newspaper, in a reference to John Kerry's alleged "flip-flopping" in the 2004 presidential campaign, said: "Palin was for the Bridge before she was against it."
With growing concerns about her readiness to be Commander-in-Chief should anything befall McCain, another Alaska newspaper, the Daily News-Miner, wrote in an editorial: "Republicans rightfully have criticised the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, for his lack of experience but Palin is a neophyte in comparison. Palin is not ready for the top job. It's clear that McCain picked Palin for reasons of image, not substance."
On the political talk shows, Democratic surrogates for Obama fanned out to decry Palin's lack of experience and her staunch conservatism.
She is pro-life, a global warming sceptic and favours drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, something even McCain opposes.
Kerry described her as a member of the "flat Earth caucus", a "Cheneyesque social conservative" chosen to satisfy the Republican base. "John McCain is a prisoner of the right wing, not a maverick," Kerry said.
Even her mother-in-law, Faye Palin, who said she was still thinking of voting for Obama, sounded sceptical.
She said: "I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket, other than she's a woman and a conservative."
Yet the surprise choice of Palin has had an extraordinary impact on the race, with the campaign of Barack Obama scrambling to discover more about her as it calculates how best to go after being only the second woman to be chosen as a vice-presidential nominee, after Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.