Palin Makes Her Case Before Adoring Crowd

Posted September 3, 2008 at 11:14pm

In what arguably has become the marquee event of the Republican National Convention, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – virtually unknown to most Americans less than a week ago – took the stage Wednesday evening to formally accept her nomination as the Republican candidate for vice president. Her highly anticipated address drew a standing ovation and an eruption of cheers that lasted nearly five minutes.

Dressed in a black business skirt and light-colored sport jacket, the first woman ever to run on a Republican presidential ticket – and only the second woman to run for vice president in either party – said she was ready for a tough fight against “confident” opponents. She proceeded to focus on why Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican presidential nominee who selected her to be his running mate, is the best choice for the White House.

In a direct jab at the criticism she has been subjected to in the media since McCain unveiled her as his pick last Friday in Ohio, Palin received one of her loudest standing ovations as she said she wasn’t going to Washington, D.C., to seek the approval of the city’s elite, but rather to shake up the status quo.

“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 great country,” Palin said.

Palin, looking mostly straight ahead but occasionally glancing to either side of the convention hall, appeared to grow more comfortable at the podium as she progressed. Palin at times gestured with her right arm to make a point, speaking clearly and forcefully while telling the audience that she trusts McCain to be commander in chief – a duty that could include commanding her 19-year-old son Track, who next week deploys to Iraq with his Army unit.

One of Palin’s main tasks Wednesday was to introduce herself. She also introduced her husband, her children and her parents, who were inside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., to watch her historic address.

Palin told a national television audience that she was just like them – an average “hockey mom” – before getting involved in politics more than a decade ago. In an indication of the political strengths Republicans hope she brings to the GOP ticket, the Alaska governor made a personal appeal to working women and middle-class voters, saying that she remains a typical American mom in a typical American family that deals with “the same ups and downs as any other; the same challenges and the same joys.”

But in rebutting suggestions by Democrats and some in the media that she is not equipped to serve as vice president, Palin veered from her prepared remarks. “You know the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?” Palin asked the roaring arena. “Lipstick!”

The delegates ate it up, with New York delegate Don Leonard saying after the speech that “she’s nothing but a success.”

In making the argument that she is experienced enough to serve as vice president following two terms as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska – a town of about 8,500 – and about a year and a half into her first term as governor, Palin, 44, also took a dig at Obama, whose first foray into politics was as a community organizer.

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer,” Palin said sarcastically. “Except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Palin, who in a recent interview with Roll Call complimented Obama running on a message of “change,” demonstrated Wednesday night that she might be well-suited to one of the key duties of a vice presidential candidate, namely serving as the chief attack dog.

Palin went after Obama almost exclusively, rarely mentioning Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) the Democratic nominee for vice president.

She said Obama was wrong on tax policy – offering a litany of different taxes she claimed the Democratic ticket would raise – while also criticizing his position on national security in general and the Iraq War and the war on terror specifically. McCain has been criticized by Democrats for picking a running mate with no national security experience after months of arguing that Obama doesn’t have enough experience to deal with major foreign policy issues.

Palin, who will face Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, in the one scheduled vice presidential debate, sought to turn the tables on the Democratic ticket, criticizing Obama’s foreign policy credentials.

“This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never used the word ‘victory’ except when he’s talking about his own campaign,” she said. “Victory is finally in sight, [but] he wants to forfeit.”

In keeping with the theme of telling the country how Republicans want to address high energy and gasoline prices, Palin talked at length about her knowledge of the energy industry – a major part of the Alaska economy – and how she will work with McCain to expand domestic production of oil and other energy sources as well as wean the country off foreign oil.

Palin also touted her record of reforming government in Alaska, which she said included cutting taxes, opposing federal earmarks and expanding access to her state’s energy reserves.

McCain joined Palin and her family on stage following her address, making an unannounced appearance before convention delegates who erupted when he came into view.

“Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?” McCain asked a loud, whistling crowd. “And what a beautiful family.”

Shira Toeplitz, Tiffany Orth and Ruth Lonvick contributed to this report.