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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Palin's performance energizes GOP's faithful

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, is applauded by fellow Republican governors Don Carcieri, left, of Rhode Island; Jim Douglas of Vermont, behind her, and Sonny Perdue of Georgia. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, center, is applauded by fellow Republican governors Don Carcieri, left, of Rhode Island; Jim Douglas of Vermont, behind her, and Sonny Perdue of Georgia.
JIM MONE / AP Enlarge

ST. PAUL - Right up until the day Sen. Barack Obama clinched his party's nomination, Republican delegate Valeria McPherson of Cleveland strongly supported Hillary Clinton for the White House.

The longtime Republican, also an African-American, cast aside her own party, dismissed race as a factor, and supported the former first lady and senator from New York - chiefly because she's a woman.

And now, after Gov. Sarah Palin's speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Ms. McPherson said many Democratic women will do as she initially did and support the opposite party.

"I thought Sarah Palin was excellent - just excellent. She represents the legacy of history, years ago when women voter-rights advocates were calling for the right to vote," Ms. McPherson said. "And I am so impressed that she brought her family out last night, and all that talk about her daughter, all it will do is make people vote for the Republican ticket."

The dissection of Mrs. Palin's speech and performance by pundits, bloggers, and millions of ordinary voters began almost immediately after she left the stage of the Xcel Energy Center. Many considered the one-term governor's first national address to be the biggest speech of her career and a resounding success.

Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) boarded a hotel elevator in Minneapolis yesterday morning packed with Ohio delegates, pumped his fist, and asked: "Is everyone fired up?"

The Palin speech has ignited that kind of firestorm of excitement within the GOP, he said.

The senator shyly admitted he's hoping the party will invite him to introduce Mrs. Palin during a trip to Ohio.

"I think the American people are yearning for change from the status quo to deal with the problems that confront America," Mr. Voinovich said. "In order to get that change, you need change agents, and John McCain is a maverick, and I don't know how it happened, but Sarah Palin is like his soul mate."

Mr. Voinovich had only one criticism of Mrs. Palin's history-making acceptance speech in which she became the first female GOP vice presidential nominee. "I will be very candid, I didn't think taking a shot at being a community organizer was a good idea because they are very important, which I know from when I was mayor of Cleveland," Mr. Voinovich said. "But does it qualify [Mr. Obama] to be president? No."

Mrs. Palin had quipped: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

In fact, there was no shortage of Obama barbs in the speech.

U.S. Rep Bob Latta said Mrs. Palin showed a glimpse of her own Alaskan-style humor, personality, and charisma when she ad-libbed off-script.

Mrs. Palin acknowledged delegates and conventioneers waving "Hockey Moms for Palin" signs. "I gotta love the hockey moms," Mrs. Palin, 44, said. "You know what they say about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

Allison Brumenshenkel, a teacher at Toledo's Start High School and a voting Ohio delegate, said the speech reflected a career woman and a working mother.

Ms. Brumenshenkel said she turned around to look at the teleprompter behind the Ohio delegation after the pitbull joke.

"That was not scripted. That was not on the teleprompter, and I think she's exactly right," Ms. Brumenshenkel said. "I have been around hockey moms and soccer moms, and my children play basketball and sports, so I understand where she was coming from."

It was unclear how much of the speech Mrs. Palin wrote and how much input she received from the McCain campaign or the Bush Administration.

Wednesday afternoon, Mr. McCain's campaign manager told reporters Mrs. Palin was working on the speech throughout the day. The Obama campaign and other Democrats claimed it was the work of a Bush speechwriter.

Democratic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, in a conference call with reporters yesterday, had a tongue-in-cheek compliment for the Alaskan governor.

"Governor Palin, I think, did a good job last night delivering a speech in a tough arena. She mastered the words written by the Bush speechwriters and clearly delivered them well," Ms. Sebelius said. "Unfortunately, although it's a new face and a new voice, what we didn't hear about is what people talk to me about every day, is, what are the solutions put forward by this team of McCain-Palin?"

She said the vice presidential nominee didn't address how people will afford health care or if their jobs will be outsourced to other countries, and instead just launched a partisan attack.

"I think that was missing not only with Governor Palin's speech, but throughout the three days of this convention," Ms. Sebelius said.

Mrs. Palin's foreign policy credentials were also a target for Democrats yesterday but neither side mentioned much about the announcement that her 17-year-old unwed daughter is pregnant.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D., Fla.), said she was struck by the "lack of substance" in Mrs. Palin's speech.

Ms. Wasserman-Schultz said she only heard "negative, partisan attacks," and did not hear Mrs. Palin's voice or vision.

"If her best example of being a reformer last night was selling the state's plane on eBay, that's not my definition of reform, nor is it the definition of most Americans," Ms. Wasserman-Schultz said.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland also blasted the Palin speech.

"It's telling that Governor Palin introduced herself to Ohioans by launching a series of baseless attacks - and never once mentioning how her ticket would address jobs, health care, or education," he said. "The McCain-Palin campaign has made clear it has nothing to offer Ohio's struggling families."

The McCain camp did not respond to questions regarding the author of Mrs. Palin's speech.

Former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine said it's typical in every presidential campaign for the presidential nominee to have input in his running mate's acceptance speech.

Mr. Latta called the debate on who wrote the speech malarkey.

"Did Obama write his own speech? Did Biden write his own speech?" he asked. "The liberal-left media that comes out of the West Coast and the East Coast, they are so afraid of her and now they are trying to bring her down."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Mrs. Palin remains consistent with what she has said as governor. "The policies that she speaks to now on the campaign trail now are the same policies that got her to be able to knock off Frank Murkowski, who'd been a senator and incumbent Republican governor," Mr. Romney said to Ohio delegates at breakfast yesterday. "She's a fighter, and what you saw is what she is.''

Mrs. Palin was clearly a crowd pleaser for the convention center packed with more than 20,000 people.

Delegates like Jerry Hruby, longtime mayor of Brecksville, Ohio, said Mrs. Palin, in one decisive swing, unified the GOP by aligning herself with Mr. McCain, the values of hardworking, patriotic Americans, and at the same time struck surgically at the enemy. "Her speech was so dynamic and just showed how she has a certain way about her," Mr. Hruby said.

Blade Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Provance contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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