St. Paul — It’s hard to overstate the electricity Sarah Palin‘s speech generated in the Xcel Center last night. Several factors account for its power and the equally strong delegate reaction. Some are obvious. It was a great speech, artfully crafted and masterfully delivered. It mixed toughness, humor, keen insight, and more than a few memorable phrases. My personal favorite: Some people use change to promote careers while others use their careers to promote change. But factors other than Sarah Palin’s eloquence fueled Wednesday’s overwhelming response.
First, delegates and activists here in St. Paul are angry about her treatment from some in the media. She is one of us. She speaks for us, one Republican woman told me. Our values and her values are more in line with more Americans than these snide, sophisticated, cynical reporters. I think there is a silent majority of women who indentify with her. They are really mad that the media is trying to paint a caricature before others even have a chance to judge for themselves.
Second, from the start this convention faced emotional schizophrenia. On Monday and most of Tuesday, delegates were not sure how to react to the dangers of Hurricane Gustav on one hand and their desire to celebrate the nomination of John McCain and Sarah Palin on the other. There is a lot of pent up demand, one GOP activist told me. After the Democrats met in Denver, Republicans wanted to put on a strong convention of their own.
These gatherings have many purposes, but one is to unify and activate workers. It is hard to get people pumped up in an environment where emotions are so split.
Another told me this: How do you generate enthusiasm when people are telling you it’s disrespectful or insensitive to cheer? Last night created an outlet for all the building enthusiasm, and Palin’s speech flipped the switch. The roof nearly blew off the hall as the vice presidential nominee drove home one great line after another.
The convention concludes tonight with John McCain’s speech. The stage is being rebuilt so the nominee can walk out near the delegates and use a handheld microphone. The new look should provide a more intimate setting than do most national conventions.
Polling in the next several days will tell the story of both conventions’ impacts on the race. But Palin’s performance last night and McCain’s tonight will set the stage for a closely contested sprint toward November. Game on!