ST. PAUL, Minn. – Sarah Palin delivered. An embattled vice presidential candidate, a novice on the national stage, the head of a family suffering its “ups and downs,” the first-term Alaska governor rocked the GOP convention with a star-turning performance.
Wielding a stiletto and a smile, Palin belittled Democrat Barack Obama and praised her new boss, John McCain, jolting the crowd of GOP partisans.
“Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States!” McCain said, hinting the controversy surrounding his pick. “And what a beautiful family.”
Indeed, the family was on display for the TV cameras – five children, including a 17-year-old unmarried daughter who is pregnant. Their mother lacked the soaring oratory skills of Obama – a man she attacked as a tax-raising, terrorist-coddling, self-indulgent liberal. But the former TV sportscaster spoke in calm, TV-friendly tones reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Like the former GOP president, Palin warmed the crowd with quips and jokes.
“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull,” she said, pausing for a beat and a smirk. “Lipstick.”
She left the crowd smiling.
“For too many times, we’ve brought knives to gun fights,” said Chuck Gast, a delegate from Maryland, When asked if Palin brought a gun to the fight, Gast said: “Yes, I think she brings a big gun, like a moose gun.”
It was the crowning moment of a roller-coaster week in which the first woman ever on a Republican presidential ticket has faced questions about how closely the McCain campaign scrutinized her. She also has heard a wide range of inquiries about family issues, her policy positions and her record of public service.
“Our family,” she said, “has the same ups and downs as any other.”
Facing down her critics with smiling resolve, Palin took crowd-delighting swipes at Obama and what she called the Washington elite. “Here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country,” she said.
A new celebrity herself, Palin cast Obama as a little more than a fancy speaker with a compelling biography.
“The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’ This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer,” Palin said, a clear reference to Obama’s time as a community organizer in Chicago.
The Obama campaign had less than a warm greeting, saying Palin’s speech was “written by George Bush’s speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we’ve heard from George Bush for the last eight years.” The speech was written by Matthew Scully, who met Palin for the first time last week.
Selected by McCain only last Friday, Palin addressed the convention amid questions about her qualifications and relative lack of experience.
The first-term governor had top billing at the convention on a night delegates also lined up for a noisy roll call of the states to deliver their presidential nomination to McCain.
Watching her speech were her husband Todd and their children, including daughter Bristol Palin, whom the Palins disclosed earlier in the week was five months pregnant. Bristol’s 18-year-old boyfriend and apparent fiance, Levi Johnston, was seated with them.
McCain shook up the presidential race by picking Palin, a little-known governor less than two years in office.
Since then, a bright spotlight has been trained on the life and record of the Republican governor who has bucked the state’s political establishment.