Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul last night (WND photo)
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Sarah Palin introduced herself to America last night as “just your average hockey mom,” but to the roar of ecstatic Republican National Convention delegates her convention speech rose above the expectations birthed last week when John McCain stunned the nation by choosing the Alaska governor as his running mate.
Casting an appearance of ease as millions watched worldwide amid a media frenzy over her personal life, she told her story and framed the argument for a McCain-Palin White House, delivering carefully crafted one-liners to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s doorstep with a resolute smile.
McCain’s assessment of the speech was clear as he appeared on stage afterward with Palin’s husband Todd, their five children, and their pregnant teen daughter’s fiancé.
“Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?” McCain asked. “And what a beautiful family.”
‘More energized than ever’
WND took a sampling of reaction from the convention floor after the speech, speaking with a dozen delegates, including Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, former Gov. George Allen of Virginia, Rep. Peter King of New York, former Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida and Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.
Texas delegate Matt Hayes of Dallas seemed to typify the mood at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
“I’m more energized than I think I ever have been politically. I’m bubbling, I’m excited, I can’t contain myself,” he said.
Texas delegate Mike Hayes (WND photo)
Hayes said that after McCain announced his pick at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, Friday he called everyone he knew to get their reaction.
“To a person, every Republican I have talked to is excited about Sarah Palin as our nominee, and tonight just pushed it 10 times what it was before,” he said. ” … I feel sorry for Joe Biden.”
WND also ran into political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz, who called it “the best vice presidential speech I have ever heard.”
“I don’t know a vice presidential candidate that had a more powerful impact, and I’ve been to every convention since 1988,” Luntz said.
“She talked about real people, using real words, real language, and I was very impressed,” Luntz said. “This is someone who’s got a natural appeal to working men and women across the country. The visual of her relating to her family and the message of the hardworking Americans on farms and in factories I think is going to have a lasting appeal. This is very impressive.”
King called it a “phenomenal speech.”
Rep. Peter King of New York (WND photo)
“It couldn’t have been better,” the New York congressman said. “Governor Palin knocked it out of the park. I couldn’t have possibly expected any more than this. It was great.”
King said he was surprised that anyone could be that good in a debut national speech.
“I’ve never seen anybody give a better speech, and it’s the first one she’s ever given,” he said.
King said he’s heard nothing but good reports about her from his New York constituents
“After tonight, it will be off the charts,” he said.
‘Toughness and warmth’
Alaska delegate Bill Noll of Anchorage knows Palin personally.
“I think America just saw why she has an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska,” he told WND.
McCollum said America has a “new star.”
“She’s just out there shining bright,” he said, “She is going to be very effective as a vice presidential candidate, and she’s gong to be a very effective vice president.”
McCollum said he thought Palin “showed a toughness and a warmth all at the same time.
“She showed she is most capable of taking on the opposition and governing and being a leader,” he said.
Former Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida (WND photo)
Prior to the speech, McCollum wasn’t sure Palin had the ability to assume the vice presidential candidate’s traditional role of challenging the rival team “in a way that is firm and convicted, and not just being a hockey mom.”
“She is a hockey mom, but she showed tonight that she can really stand tall beside anybody, man or woman,” McCollum said.
Palin, noting she served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, took direct aim at the intense criticism from the Obama campaign about her qualification for the job of vice president.
“Since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience,” she said, “let me explain to them what the job involves, I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”
Palin said she “had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town.”
“I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better,” she said.
Palin said when she ran for city council for her hometown, “I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too.”
‘Ready to lead’
Virginia’s Allen called it an “outstanding speech” in content and delivery.
Former Virginia Gov. George Allen (WND photo)
“I think viewers across America fell in love with her,” the former governor and presidential candidate said. “She showed great poise; I thought she handled her family wonderfully, notwithstanding all the invasions of her family’s privacy.”
Allen said some of the people who tuned in because of the “controversy created by the media” saw “someone who is ready to lead, ready to be a partner with John McCain in putting the people, in putting the people and the taxpayers of America first.”
Allen said that prior to the speech he had hoped Palin would not dwell on the media fury surrounding the announcement Monday of her 17-year-old unmarried daughter’s pregnancy.
“I thought she handled it perfectly,” he said, noting Bristol was there with her fiancé.
Kay Kellogg Katz, national committeewoman for Louisiana, said she was not familiar with Palin prior to her introduction last Friday but was “quite taken” with her from that point.
“She has a special needs child, her father was an elementary school teacher, her mother was a support worker in the schools, her husband’s a union member, they’ve owned a small business, her son’s going to Iraq – how much more middle America can you be?” Katz asked.
“She’s one of us, and I think will be a breath of fresh air.”
Texas delegate Laura Woodhan of Lubbock said she was on the phone after the speech with her 22-year-old niece who watched it on TV and is now beside herself with excitement.
“I don’t know that before tonight she’d given [the campaign] a second thought,” Woodhan said. “But now, it’s on the forefront of her mind.”
Sarah Palin before adoring crowd at Republican National Convention (WND photo)
Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Corbett, said he thought Palin “came across very, very well.”
“This speech tonight I think astounded the country,” Corbett said. “A woman who’s up in Alaska – nobody got to know her. Tonight they got to know her, and they’re going to see her for the next 61 or 62 days, and I think they see somebody who can lead.”
Pennsylvanians were the subject of derision in secretly taped remarks Obama made earlier this year at a San Francisco fundraiser, and Corbett was glad to see Palin address it.
Palin said “in small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening.”
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma (WND photo)
“We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco,” Palin said.
McCain reportedly had considered former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as a running mate to strengthen his chances in the battleground state, but Corbett said Palin makes it competitive.
“There are a lot of Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania that are going to be looking at this race,” he said.
One-liners with a message
Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma said he didn’t know as much about Palin as others, having had only one conversation with her, and “didn’t know until tonight what really good communications skills she had.”
“Her one liners – each one had a message, and that’s not normally the case,” Inhofe said.
Palin took aim at one of Obama’s main campaign themes.
“Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.”
The senator said he was pleased Palin was unapologetic about the need to drill for oil along with pursuing renewable energy sources, and he appreciated the administrative skills she has demonstrated in Alaska.
Palin advocates drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while McCain is opposed
Gov. Sarah Palin’s family on stage at the Republican National Convention last night (WND photo)
Palin said that in a McCain-Palin administration “we’re going to lay more pipelines, build more nuclear plants, create jobs with clean coal, and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources. We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers.”
Mississippi delegate Brian Perry, 33, of Jackson, said Palin exceeded his expectations.
“There’s been a lot of concern that the Republican brand has been damaged,” he said. “She comes from outside Washington … she’s showed she’s experienced, she can do the job, she has the charisma to inspire and she has the knowledge.”
Kansas delegate Randy Duncan of Brookville thinks Palin came across well in the heartland.
“I think she not only hit a home run, she hit it out of the ballpark,” Duncan said. “I mean she was fantastic. I think the selection of Sarah Palin not only energized the base, but I think it’s energized the entire Republican party. And I don’t think there’s any doubt we have a great opportunity to win.
“I think the country fell in love with Sarah Palin tonight,” he said.