The Washington Times - September 4, 2008, 11:38AM

ST. PAUL, MN | Former Bush advisor Karl Rove said that two keys for John McCain in his acceptance speech tonight will be to connect with Americans on pocketbook issues, and to overcome his reluctance to share his own personal history.

“We need to find a way to share his interior self,” Mr. Rove said at a morning panel discussion hosted by Politico, Yahoo and the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “McCain, for whatever reason – maybe it’s a warrior ethic or something - is reticent to talk about things and give people a sense of the compassion of this man and his wife.”

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Mr. McCain served more than six years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam war, but is a private man who does not like to discuss his religious beliefs.

Mr. Rove also said that Republicans are behind in polling on economic issues, and that while Mr. McCain does not need to beat Democratic nominee Barack Obama on this issue, he needs to “close the gap.”

“You need to get close on the economy and jobs and kitchen table concerns. That’s the biggest challenge tonight in his speech,” Mr. Rove said.

Fellow panelist Armstrong Williams raved about the speech given last night by Mr. McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in accepting the Republican nomination for vice president.

“She is the female Bill Clinton when it comes to oratory,” said Mr. Williams, a conservative radio talk show host.

“It was unbelievable,” he said of the speech. “Barack Obama is no longer the phenomenon in this campaign. It’s Sarah Palin.”

Mr. Williams said that when Mr. McCain picked Mrs. Palin a week ago, “even the people within the Republican Party thought he had lost his mind.”

But Mr. Williams said he thought Mrs. Palin’s speech had turned the tide, making a McCain victory possible.

“The Democratic party, they can lose this election. I would have never thought so a month ago,” he said.

Yet Mr. Williams also said that “Sarah Palin is not someone i’d want in the White House if John McCain passed away. It’s just that simple.”