Talk about anticipation.
Five days after John McCain thrust Alaska Governor Sarah Palin onto the national stage as his running mate, she stood before delegates at the Republican National Convention Wednesday poised to deliver among the year’s most anticipated speech.
And she delivered an aggressive, forceful address that touted her experience as a small town mayor and governor, celebrated McCain’s leadership and character, and attacked the Democrats and media.
“Tonight’s performance … will go down in history as what saved the McCain campaign for another day,” speechwriter Jane Genova told Ragan.com. “Every speechwriter can be proud tonight to make similar performances possible for their speakers.”
Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Palin’s speech must tell the public “who she is, what she believes and why she’s here.”
Check, check and check. This comes as little surprise, of course; you might disagree with his politics, but Scully is a tested speechwriter. So how effective were those explanations?
“Her speech carefully but seamlessly drew in diverse groups of voters,” Genova explained, “ranging from mothers with disabled children to small-business people to those concerned about energy independence.”
Indeed, the speech reached out from the GOP base, touching upon concerns of Americans of both parties. A truly deft move considering Palin is, in many respects, an ultra conservative—skewing hard to the right on nearly all issues—yet her message was one of populace concern, not unlike the many stump speeches of former Democratic candidate John Edwards.
An appeal to working-class America
The speech, Genova said, returned America its working-class roots and love of family. “Using the speech patterns of the working class, wearing glasses unselfconsciously, still loving her guy, she gave Everywoman and Everyman permission to just be herself or himself,” she remarked.
Palin spoke directly to people who grew up in small towns. “They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … who grow our food, run our factories and fight our wars,” Palin explained. “They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America. I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town.”
If Palin is the “Everywoman and Everyman,” then small-town America has a nasty bite, as Palin, the self-described “pit bull with lipstick,” unleashed a blistering attack of the Democrats and Barack Obama, both direct and indirect.
“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,” Palin said, referencing Obama’s early career as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side.
The Obama campaign didn’t leave the attack unanswered. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, specifically addressed the remark: “Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.”
Attacked with a smile
Perhaps most notably, Palin unleashed her assault with a smile. And while the attacks were expected—vice presidential candidates are typically the attack dogs—Palin took an unexpected approach in her barbs: She touted her experience in the face of critics noting her lack of experience.
“And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience [as small town mayor and governor], let me explain to them what the job involves,” she said before describing her resume. A nice touch, speechwriters noted, came during this resume briefing when Palin talked of her thrift as governor.
The comment was both humorous and effective in describing fiscal policy.
Taking another shot at Obama, Palin said, “For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words”; certainly, for an evening, Palin rallied Republicans with her words. Seems the next two months until election day in American will be a good time for speeches and speechwriting.
“Between her and Obama, I can’t remember a presidential campaign that had such passionate speakers on both sides of the aisle,” said speechwriter Steve Soltis.