"I thought we could muddle through..."

Sarah Palin came out last night and got as much applause as President Clinton got at the Democrat convention, more than 2 mintues worth. Impressive hero worship for a woman to whom the audience was mostly introduced just last Friday.

Her delivery was outstanding. She was snappy with the one liners, and super confident. She came out wearing a skirt, and spent a good 30% of her speech laying out her own biography and introducing her family, solidifying her image as the all-American girl and devoted working mom.

She doted on her husband who was "still my guy" and touted her PTA and "hockey mom" credentials, explaining with impeccable delivery that "the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick".

In fact, for the better part of the introduction, it was more like a speech you'd expect to hear from a ass-kicker of a 1st lady, not a candidate for VP. But, these are unchartered waters for the GOP, alas.

Much like Obama's bit on the 1st night in Denver, Palin's family spotlight will have great appeal across America, and runs the risk of overshadowing McCain himself. Because of Hurricane Gustav, Cindy McCain played a very minor role at the GOP convention, which is strategically unfortunate.

Palin used the example of Democrat Harry Truman, to extol the virutes of small-town roots, and with an obvious swipe at Michelle Obama, proclaimed the inhabitants of those places as being "always proud of America".

The rest of Palin's speech fit into 3 themes - reformer, McCain surrogate, and attack dog.

If Sarah Palin is the evangelical Christian's dream candidate, you'd never guess it from this speech - she used the word God twice, exactly as many time as Barack Obama did in his keynote remarks last week. This suggests that either 1) the McCain team is afraid of Palin being chastised by the ultra-religious right and the liberal left as a hypocrite, considering her daughter's misfortune, or 2) they are once again taking conservative Christians for granted: the evangelicals have skipped the light fandango and turned cartwheels across the floor for McCain's shade of Palin, and they're in the bag.

Her speech was peppered with snappy digs at Obama in particular, but she didn't refer to her counterpart much at all:
  • "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer', except that you have actual responsibilities - the video showed someone dragged away for protesting
  • "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"
  • "We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco"
  • on the media - "I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion, I'm going to Washington to serve this great country"
  • "When the stadium lights go out, and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan?"
  • "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we all didn't know that already"
  • "...the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners, or on self-designed presidential seals" (ouch!)
  • "Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the current do-nothing Senate..."
  • "He said, quote, 'I can't stand John McCain'...clearly what the Majority Leader was driving at is that he can't stand up to John McCain"
  • "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"
Today during the live blog chat on the Sky News website, I sparred with their US correspondent Jon-Christopher Bau, for saying that I was surprised that Palin played the attack dog. Bau countered that the running mate always plays that role. Generally, this is true. However, in a speech that sounded for 12 minutes at least like Palin was auditioning for the role of 1st lady, showing off her "girl next door" credentials, it took some good talent to pull off the sassy lines later in the speech.

This was her debut performance, and she exceled. What remains to be seen is how well Palin can walk the tightrope of likability and readiness to attack.

As for her Reform credentials, she listed them in a straightforward fashion, but didn't tie the theme as strongly to McCain as she probably should have.

Key reform-oriented quotes:
  • "I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol' boys network"
  • "I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for (brilliantly timed pause)...that luxury jet was over the top - I put it on eBay"
  • "I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef - although I've got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her" (how could you not like that line?)
  • "thanks, but no thanks, on that bridge to nowhere...if our state wanted to build a bridge, we were gonna build it ourselves"
She also boated of being aggressive on the Veto, a lovely gesture to those fiscal hawks among us hopelessly upset with Bush. Palin threw out the figure of $.5 billion worth of vetoed spending. Alaska's total annual budget is $11.2 billion. So in 2 years, Palin vetoed nearly 2.2% of all spending. Without the exact figures, I'm going to guess that Bush's combined 8 years have a total vetoed spending percentage that is an order of magnitude below Palin's as Alaska Governor.

Palin closed with a good deal of admiration for McCain, focusing on energy issues, although I must say her tone was not totally hawkish. For example, she didn't say, "those who hate us", she said, "dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart". Same message, classier delivery. Interesting choice.

Again, an outstanding performance. Can Palin maintain this level of energy, and balance the likability with the attacks? I look forward to watching.

Meanwhile, the website still sucks and the audio was beyond horrible. The closing 5 minutes to Palin's speech, when McCain came out and joined her, were ridiculously unprofessional.