Governor becomes overnight sensation

PHENOMENOM: Palin creates a national buzz, but she hasn't faced a tough crowd or questions yet.

September 5, 2008 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The '70s rock song "Barracuda" blasted through the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, and delegates chanted "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah," the day after Gov. Sarah Palin gave a speech that made her a rock star on the right.

Palin, nicknamed "Sarah Barracuda" when she played basketball at Wasilla High School, emerged, as Time magazine put it, "like the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan" after accepting her party's nomination for vice president.

"Rarely have I seen this kind of phenomenon," said Alaska delegate Rex Shattuck. "It's almost like Lady Di or something."

It remains to be seen if that feeling will extend beyond the bubble of convention delegates and other Republican activists.

The John McCain campaign has kept Palin off-limits to reporters who would ask hard questions about her experience, foreign policy knowledge, and the investigation of whether she broke state law and tried to get her ex-brother in law fired as a state trooper.

Eric Chin, an undecided voter from Minneapolis, said he was impressed by Palin's speech. She showed fire and was more interesting than the old white guys who gave the rest of the speeches, he said as he worked the counter at the Heavenly Daze coffee shop.

But he's not convinced.

"I'm waiting for the debates. And I have to see how she is at dealing with people," Chin said.


Part of Palin's role in the McCain campaign is attacking Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. She did it repeatedly in her convention speech and kept up Thursday.

"As governor we are expected to take action and not just vote 'present,'" Palin said Thursday, repeating a well-worn Republican slam on Obama's voting record in the U.S. Senate.

Palin was speaking at a Republican governor's event at in Minneapolis. She gave only brief remarks reiterating the main points from her speech the night before. Reporters, given a Secret Service search before riding to the event in Palin's police-escorted motorcade, were hustled out afterward as Palin ignored shouted questions.

She answered just one question, from an Anchorage television reporter who suggested Alaskans felt a bit like they were losing her, and asked if she'd still be there for the state.

"I get to travel across the nation and let people know about our great state and about the people who live there," she said.

Lack of engagement with the press hasn't kept Palin from being a huge national, even international, story. She's now getting attention for a fundraising letter sent out by the McCain campaign, in which she asks supporters to help fight the Democrats' "vicious attacks."

"As you've seen this week, the Obama/Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward me, my family, and John McCain," she wrote. "The misinformation and flat-out lies must be corrected."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that's ridiculous.

"The only 'flat-out lie' is this ridiculous claim, and it proves that John McCain has wasted no time in teaching Sarah Palin the ways of the Washington he's inhabited for the last 26 years," Burton said.

Liberal blogs have attacked Palin with rumors about her family life but Obama has repudiated them, and there is no evidence tying the innuendo to his campaign.

National Democrats were critical Thursday of what they called the partisan attacks and lack of policy substance in Palin's speech the night before.

"Sarah Palin is not a reformer, she is under investigation in her own state for abuse of power," said Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

"Selling a jet on eBay is not my definition of reform."


Republican convention delegates brushed all that off, and said one of the things they most like about Palin is her willingness to slam Obama.

Some members of the Alaska delegation were given a set of Republican National Convention "talking points" for dealing with reporters on Palin and other issues, including that she brought "change and new energy" to the governor's office.

Most Alaska delegates said they had not seen the talking points and were genuinely enthusiastic about Palin as vice president, even if they disagreed with raising oil taxes or other actions she's taken in Juneau.

Palin joined McCain, with both of their families, on stage after he gave his Thursday night speech accepting the Republican nomination for president. "Barracuda" played again as the red-white-and blue balloons and confetti rained down on them.

"I'm very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country. But I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington," McCain said.

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