Election 2008

palin speech, palin speech reactions, palin rnc speech reactions
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Palin’s Rhetoric Reworks the McCain Campaign

September 04, 2008 11:20 AM
by Liz Colville
Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech drew a large audience intent on getting to know the much-hyped VP candidate, and reactions were diverse.

Rebranding the McCain Campaign

Supported by a large crowd of delegates, politicians, a former president and her family, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Wednesday night told an audience of millions the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: “Lipstick.” Mixing down-to-earth humor with strong words against Ill. Sen. Barack Obama and a reverential introduction to Ariz. Sen. John McCain, Gov. Palin passionately dismissed claims that she is unfit to be second in command.

After introducing her family and her political background in her own words, and chastising the press for what she deemed an unfair assessment of her, Palin turned to her running mate’s opponent in a line leaked to the press prior to the speech: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

She went on to ask what exactly Sen. Obama—whom she avoided mentioning by name—would do once in office, and harkened back to the words of N.Y. Sen. Hillary Clinton and McCain by focusing on Obama’s impressive speeches: “When the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot, what exactly is our opponent’s plan?”

Opinion & Analysis: Feeling Palin’s impact

In reference to Palin’s attack on Obama’s rhetoric, David Nather of CQ Politics highlights the similarities between Palin’s bravado Wednesday and Obama’s rousing speeches: “Ironically, if Palin’s standing as McCain’s running mate is now on more solid ground, it will be because she turned it around with a speech.”

The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney seemed to agree, noting that the RNC was a perfect environment for Palin to refine and clarify herself. The crowd was “enthralled with her selection as Senator John McCain’s running mate even before she walked on stage to a roar of approval.”

While Palin has not yet entered the lion’s den, Slate’s John Hickerson contends that the Democrats should still be “scared of” her, not only for her ability to be an “elusive target” the way Obama has been, but for her potential to nab Clinton supporters. “Want to call her shrill?” Hickerson writes, alluding to a comment MSNBC guest and former congressman Joe Scarborough made about Clinton on “Hardball” in February. “Go ahead. There are a lot of women like her who vote and who might be listening.”
Reintroducing the concept of the “brand” into the presidential campaign, Hickerson adds that Palin’s speech “wasn’t just launching a new brand (her own). She was relaunching a whole new product: the McCain-Palin ticket. Experience is no longer the central argument. Reform is. McCain and Palin are presenting themselves as leaders who can deliver because they speak and act regardless of the political risk.”

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek argues that, although Palin’s speech helped shift the McCain campaign from the “experience” theme to the “change” theme—their chosen word is “reform”—he says the McCain campaign will try to steer Palin away from the toughest reporters and interviewers. “Her lack of experience will only become an issue if it is manifested during the campaign. … I’d imagine that Palin will dodge press conferences in favor of interviews with people like Sean Hannity, Larry King and Ellen DeGeneres.”

Fox News, looking ahead to McCain’s acceptance speech Thursday night, suggests that Palin’s speech raised the bar for her running mate, even if he has a different task to achieve at the podium. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas told Fox, “I think [McCain] will match the enthusiasm level, but I don’t think he will try to be her. He’s going to be John McCain and I think the combination of those two will be a great package.”

Speaking to the “enthusiasm” factor—some Gallup polls have suggested that the Democrats remain quite far ahead of the Republicans in this area—John Fund of The Wall Street Journal contends that the gap is closing thanks to Palin. “I don’t think any pundits or politicians will be able to count on a decisive Democratic enthusiasm edge. Sarah Palin electrified the hall, and from what I can tell from my e-mail inbox that excitement is being replicated in living rooms across the country.”

Reference: Transcript of Palin’s speech


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