Palin electrifies GOP: Governor goes on the offensive while introducing herself to the nation (Sept. 4, 2008)

Originally published September 4, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Sarah Palin introduced herself to the nation Wednesday night as a small town hockey mom with backbone who cleaned up Alaska and sold Frank Murkowski’s jet on eBay.

Palin, speaking to a television audience in the millions at the Republican National Convention, blamed the media for the persistent questions about whether she’s qualified to be vice president and jabbed Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist.

“I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town,” Palin said as the delegates roared. “I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better.”

Palin’s speech was the most anticipated of the convention. Few outside of Alaska knew anything about her before John McCain stunned the nation Friday by naming her his running mate.

The convention hall exploded in applause when Palin took the stage. She’s hugely popular with the convention delegates, Republican Party activists dismissive of the controversies around her selection.

Thousands chanted “Sarah, Sarah” as she took the stage, shouting out they loved her. The applause went on for several minutes as Palin waved and pointed to her husband, Todd, her children, and her parents, sitting with McCain family members.


The floor of the convention hall was so packed no one could move. Photographers jostled one another to get pictures of Todd Palin, the governor’s pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol, and Bristol’s Wasilla hockey player fiance Levi Johnston.

Ecstatic delegates waved signs saying “Palin Power,” and “Hockey Moms for 4 Palin.”

“I love those hockey moms. They say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick,” Palin said in one of her few departures from the prepared text of her speech.


Veteran Republican speechwriter Matthew Scully wrote the speech and it included plenty of red meat to fire up the Republican crowd. Palin repeatedly mocked Democratic presidential nominee Obama as an empty promise, showing little regard for his background as a community organizer in Chicago.

She contrasted it to her time as mayor of Wasilla.

“Since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves,” Palin said. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Palin seemed well prepared and her delivery wasn’t all that much different from speeches she’s given in Alaska. Palin didn’t go for soaring rhetorical flourishes, but neither did she appear to be nervous speaking on the world stage.

She mouthed “thanks, guys,” to the crowd after the speech, the same thing that she says to reporters after Juneau press conferences.

“I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol’ boys network,” she said.

Palin said she sold on eBay the “luxury jet” purchased by her predecessor Gov. Frank Murkowski, although she didn’t mention him by name. She said she passed ethics reform, drives herself to work, and vetoed wasteful spending.

Palin also touted her decision to divert funding from “the Bridge to Nowhere” in Ketchikan and said she broke the monopoly of oil company lobbyists on the state’s power and resources.

She claimed that “we began a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipepline,” when no pipeline construction is guaranteed. She did push through a plan to give a state license and $500 million subsidy to a Canadian pipeline company to pursue construction of pipeline.


Palin spent much of her speech praising McCain.

She got some of her biggest applause of the night when she said “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.”

McCain joined Palin and her family on stage after the speech, to the thunderous delight of the crowd.


“Don’t you think we’ve made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?” McCain asked the cheering crowd.

Afterwards, delegates from outside of Alaska said they were most glad to see Palin go on the offensive against Obama.

“It was a pretty, tough hard hitting speech, I’m glad to see she’s not going to be shy in this campaign,” said Chuck Smith, a California delegate.

Delegate David Penwell of Montana said “it’s about time” a Republican goes after Obama.

David McGraw, a delegate from Wasilla, noted what Palin said about being a conservative.

“I liked what she said, I’m not sure I believe it, though,” he said. “It would be a change from her past.”

Soldotna delegate Mel Krogseng said Palin came across during her speech as being authentic.

“I likes that she was Sarah, she was herself, she was unpretentious,” Krogseng said.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Palin delivered her speech well but “it was written by George Bush’s speechwriter and sounded exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we’ve heard from George Bush for the past eight years.”

Sean Cockerham

Sean Cockerham is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He also covered Alaska issues for McClatchy Newspapers based in Washington, D.C.