ST. PAUL – Say what you will about Sarah Palin.
Love her or despise her, celebrate or denounce her, but recognize this: The governor of Alaska has not just electrified the conservative base of a bruised and battered Republican party.
The woman who would be John McCain’s vice president has super-charged a convention that until Wednesday night seemed lost and listless.
The hall that never quite filled for the Republican National Convention’s truncated first and second nights packed toward capacity as Palin’s moment approached. And every defense by party stalwarts such as defeated presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of the embattled vice-presidential prospect — especially those that bashed media reports that have revealed her political and family history — was cheered with an enthusiasm unparalleled at what until Wednesday night had been a tepid gathering of the faithful.
When Lingle said that Democratic nominees Barack Obama and Joe Biden had between them “zero” experience as executives, the chants of “Zero! Zero! Zero!” literally shook St. Paul’s Xcel Center.
It was clear then, if it had not been before, where this night was headed.
There was no question that the convention’s energy level would peak when Palin arrived on stage to address the largest audience she has ever faced.
Even before she opened her mouth, John McCain’s choice to run with him on the 2008 Republican ticket had won the hall – thanks to a rigid social-conservative bent that fits far more neatly with the sentiments of delegates to this convention than do those of the man who will accept their presidential nomination tomorrow night.
After all this buildup, only two questions remained: What would Palin say? And how well would she say it?
Here, from the convention organizers, is some of what Palin is expected to tell the convention:
On her experience as a public servant:
“I 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. When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too. Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, 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.”
On why she is going to Washington, D.C.:
“I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But 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.”
On energy policies that the McCain-Palin administration will implement:
“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. But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, 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.”
On John McCain:
“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.”
That will be enough for the Republican base that has packed the Xcel Center tonight.
The question is whether it will be enough to prove right Lingle’s claim that, “When the rest of America gets to know her, they will agree with me, as you agree with me, that Sarah Palin will be a great vice president.”