But then I noticed something: Palin's situation is even more unusual than I'd realized.
In the last 35 years, do you know how many governors have been chosen to serve as running mates? None. Literally, zero. Sarah Palin is the first governor to join a major-party ticket since Spiro Agnew in 1972. Before Agnew, we have to go back to Earl Warren running on the Republican ticket in 1948. For decades, the vast majority of running mates have come from Congress, not state houses.
To be sure, there have been plenty of governors at the top of the ticket in the post-Watergate era -- Carter, Reagan, Dukakis, Clinton, and Bush -- but none, until Palin, in the #2 slot.
Of course, when a governor seeks the presidential nomination, he or she has plenty of time to get familiar with national/federal issues while on the campaign trail. But those governors then tend to pick someone for the ticket who is already familiar with Washington. Clinton picked Gore; Reagan picked Bush; Bush picked Cheney; Dukakis picked Bentsen; etc.
Given this, there is no modern parallel for Palin. It's no wonder it seems odd that she has to disappear from the campaign trail for a crash course in federal politics -- we just haven't seen governors in this role.