NEW YORK - Republican Party's high command swung into damage control Monday as their scaled-back convention was overtaken by news that the unmarried teenage daughter of Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin was five months pregnant. Among the day's other less attention-grabbing news were that Ms Palin has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state's public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that her husband, Todd was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge, according to media reports. Aides to  Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms Palin's background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before McCain stunned the political world with his Vice Presidential choice. The revelation introduced a highly personal and unpredictable element into a presidential campaign already steeped in gender politics. In a statement released hours before the convention opened, Palin and her husband did not say when their daughter Bristol 17, told them of her pregnancy. Bristol intends to marry the father, the statement said -- a move that drew widespread praise from religious leaders and convention delegates. McCain, campaigning in Ohio and Pennsylvania, did not take questions from reporters. But aides said the Arizona Senator was aware of the Palin family's situation. His aides also warned that the media would face a backlash if it pried too deeply into the Palins' lives. "It's a private family matter. Life happens in families," said Steve Schmidt, chief strategist of the McCain campaign. "If people try to politicise this, the American people will be appalled by it." The political effect of Palin's announcement will depend on how voters process the news. Speaking to reporters in Michigan, Democratic nominee Barack Obama -- whose mother was 18 when he was born -- reiterated statements that candidates' families should be kept off-limits. But the gossip dominated the day's talk after it flashed through this convention city, starting on BlackBerrys and then spreading rapidly on cable television and the Internet. Gender has been a dominant theme of this campaign, which featured Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's historic White House bid and the drama over supporters struggling to accept her defeat. McCain's selection of Palin was seen as an attempt to win over female voters who remain hostile to, or at the least ambivalent about, Obama. But opinions are still forming about the little-known Palin, 44, and the news Monday added another layer of uncertainty. "The choice of Palin is either brilliant or a colossal screw-up on the part of John McCain," said independent political analyst Charles Cook. "Are people going to say, 'Gee, she's a regular person coping with problems just like us?' Or are people going to say, 'How can she possibly run for vice president with everything going on her life?' " Citing a legislative investigation into Palin's firing of the state public safety commissioner -- a matter allegedly linked to a family dispute -- Cook suggested: "She can't take on a whole lot more water." On Monday, it was disclosed that the state had hired a private attorney to represent Palin in the legislative probe and also that her husband had been arrested for drunken driving more than two decades ago. With scores of reporters descending on Alaska to comb through Palin's background, McCain aides said the campaign had dispatched a team of lawyers and other campaign operatives to the state. The aides denied that McCain was vetting Palin again. The latest development raises questions about the thoroughness of the process leading up to Palin's selection. A Republican source with close ties to the campaign said that McCain aides "vetted her through Google and clipping services."