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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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September 4, 2008 7:42 AM

Palin sets high bar for McCain

Posted by David Postman

Watching Sarah Palin on TV last night it sure seemed like she had won over the Republican faithful. And this morning the AP reports that she

has done in five days what John McCain has never been able to do — fire up the Republican Party's conservative base.

I thought Palin did a great job of delivering that speech. There was not even a small stumble or hesitation as she worked to introduce herself as a small town mom, burnish her credentials and eviscerate Barack Obama.

That’s a lot for anyone to cram into one speech. I think the Boston Globe has it pretty much right:

Facing concerns that she lacks the gravitas for the presidency, she chose instead to demonstrate that she has the wit, composure, and aggressiveness to be an effective vice-presidential nominee.

At Slate, John Dickerson says McCain “can feel happy that, for the moment, his judgment about his pick seems to have been vindicated.”

But the expectation game has changed in the past 12 hours.

Now he better hope he can do half the job his new sidekick did.

Will Palin overshadow McCain? Tom Brune at Newsday:

Recent news of her teen daughter's pregnancy and curiosity about the 44-year-old little-known Alaska governor, big-game hunter and former beauty queen could make her speech last night a bigger draw than McCain's address tonight.

Even the friendlies at Fox News are questioning whether expectations have grown for McCain.

Between Palin’s address to the GOP convention and Obama’s acceptance speech delivered to 85,000 people at Invesco Field in Denver, McCain, who joined Palin on stage after her speech Wednesday night, now has a larger hurdle to mount.

Of course, we know what Palin thinks of the media.

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.

More from Dickerson at Slate::

What got Republicans out of their seats is not just a desire to annoy the media they think are stacked against her. Palin gave them some of that old-time religion. I don't mean code words about abortion — she didn't touch the subject. She offered only glancing references to God. What got the women shaking their "Hockey Mom" signs and the Texas delegation waving their straw hats was the attack on their common enemies in elite circles and the press. …

It was a great act—but it was an act, a one-shot show. Palin will have to keep it up for the next nine weeks, when there won't be time to practice or the opportunity to sand down that line to keep it from sounding small and mean. This is a test Obama has already passed. And her sarcasm will wear thin quickly. Reagan could do it because he was a sunny optimist offering a vision of the future. Palin didn't do much of that, other than by offering platitudes (hey, she had a lot of ground to cover).

The speech may not have been 100 percent accurate. The Anchorage Daily News did a little fact-checking:

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million.

In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation, although she has cut, by more than half, the amount the state sought from Washington this year. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

Hal Bernton and David Heath reported in yesterday’s Times:

Just this year, she sent to Sen. Ted. Stevens, R-Alaska, a proposal for 31 earmarks totaling $197 million — more, per person, than any other state.

In fact, McCain has criticized some of the earmarks Palin had pushed. "Three times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of "objectionable" spending have included earmarks" Palin pushed while mayor of Wasilla.

At the Chicago Tribune, columnist Steve Chapman says Palin was a bad choice for McCain. She's a "a human torpedo aimed at McCain's strongest attributes."

You don't come across as the prudent option when you propose to put an untested neophyte in line for the most powerful job on Earth. Or when you choose a running mate you barely know without investigating her to within an inch of her life. Or when you cheerfully contemplate turning over the nuclear codes to someone with no apparent knowledge of or interest in national security matters. The safe guy suddenly looks like Evel Knievel.

But Palin's strength may come from the realness she showed last night. Here's Scott St. Clair, a conservative well-known at this blog, writing at Crosscut:

With Palin there was no hiding — she was open and out there, which tells the rest of us that it's OK to have an imperfect family that occasionally makes mistakes. Watch for this to be cited in weeks, months, and years to come as an example of how families, even those under intense media scrutiny, can and should support each other and work through difficult situations together.

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Sep 4, 08 - 07:42 AM
Palin sets high bar for McCain

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