[From Mandate's Washington DC Principal, direct from the Republican National Convention in St Paul-Minnesota]
Prior to last night’s address, Governor Sarah Palin was a mystery to nearly all those watching. John McCain shocked the nation last Friday when he announced that the little known and little experienced Governor of the state of Alaska would be his running mate. Never mentioned on the VP short lists, she was certainly not part of conventional wisdom. Even the mainstream national media seemed almost annoyed to be caught so off guard.
After her introductory speech on Friday, Governor Palin went into hiding and would not be heard from again until last night in her formal address to the GOP party convention. Meanwhile, we all learned over the weekend that 44 year old mother of five was the former Mayor of a tiny town in rural Alaska. She ruled over a population of just 6,000 residents with a budget of $6 million. She rose to the governorship just 20 months ago when she took on a scandal ridden Republican administration in the primary, promising reform and an end to corruption.
But the bomb shell came a few days later when we learned that Governor Palin’s 17 year old unmarried daughter was 5 months pregnant. The news sent the media into a feeding frenzy about her past, and Republicans quickly cried foul over sexist treatment of the female candidate. Media pundits and talking heads spent the next five days in endless speculation over her family situation, her credentials as mayor and governor, and ultimately her readiness to be Vice President.
In a single speech last night, billed as the most important VP candidate speech of any major party convention, Governor Palin gave us some insight into a few unanswered questions:
She’s no political novice
Her resume is light, but she is clearly no beginner. She controlled the stage and commanded the crowd from the moment she stepped out. She delivered powerful speech that any political pro would be proud of.
The Base Loves Her
Palin is a star among the conservative Republican base. Of course McCain put her on the ticket to appeal to female voters. But possibly more importantly, she is there to shore up the base of the party with whom McCain has such a difficult time connecting. She is the pro-life, pro-gun, fiscal conservative that they were looking for. And it became evident quite early that she was speaking directly to them.
A Pit Bull With Lipstick (in her own words)
The natural role for the VP nominee is that of attack dog on the opponent. Could an attractive, young mother of five play this role effectively? Palin put that question to rest immediately, tearing into Obama again and again. Just a few of the memorable digs:
“I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer’ accept that you have actual responsibilities.” “…this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform, not even in the state senate.” “This is a man who can give an enitre speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word ‘victory’ accept when he is talking about his own campaign.”
She’s A Game Changer
Anybody in attendance at the Democratic convention will tell you that it was a scene like none other with an almost indescribable energy in the air. By comparison, excluding the protesters outside, the Republican convention has been a bit less exciting than a funeral. But last night was a different story. McCain made a bold move to energize his campaign. And for the time being it looks like it worked. The crowd on the convention floor was as raucus and rowdy as any I have ever seen, including last week in Denver. And Palin was the reason. Whether her record and experience hold up to scrutiny is unclear. But as far as any VP nominee can shake up a campaign, Palin is definitely a game changer.
The biggest question for tonight is, can John McCain keep the same kind of energy going?