It was the moment everyone had waited for. From the time she became John McCain’s surprise running mate the Republican convention knew that the performance of Governor Sarah Palin would be pivotal. And she nailed it. She did not simply live up to expectations, she massively exceeded them. She was poised, elegant and eloquent. She set out her views clearly and unapologetically but with considerable warmth and charm. It was impossible to be present and not to feel that something significant was happening in the world of American politics. Whether it was discussing her family and background or the details of energy security policy she held the capacity crowd transfixed and above all, she seemed completely authentic. There was nothing in her content or style that seemed awkward or uncomfortable, written by professional speechwriters for a generic vice presidential candidate. She praised (indeed embodies) the values of smalltown America contrasting her position with what she characterised as Senator Obama’s condescension for those “ who cling to God and the gun”. She said there were politicians who used to change to promote their own careers and those, like John McCain, who used their careers to promote change.
The convention had finally come to life, following the earlier changes imposed by hurricane Gustav, with speeches by Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Despite the economic difficulties and the success, at least with the media, of Senator Obama’s convention speech, there has been an increasing air of optimism among Republican delegates here in Minnesota. And all this for a maverick Presidential candidate who had been almost entirely written off a year ago.
The Conservative party is well represented and has been very warmly welcomed here, with considerable interest in the fate of the Brown government and potential restoration of the Conservatives to office. David Liddington, Mark Francois, Eleanor Laing, Tobias Ellwood and Brooks Newmark have attended a non-stop round of speeches, meetings and receptions where we have had tremendous access to the highest levels of the Republican party, elected and unelected.
Having spoken to literally hundreds of politicians and delegates here there is a palpable loathing of what they perceive as a left biased media and a Democratic candidate who they perceive as being out of touch with ordinary Americans. When Governor Palin said in her speech that “ the Presidency is not supposed to be a journey of self-discovery” and that the Democratic nominee had “written two autobiographies but no substantive legislation” she was pressing the right buttons with her party. How well this will play with the electorate in general we will find out before long although initial media reaction was very positive. Tonight John McCain will take the stage and one of the most important elections in recent American history will have begun in earnest but those of us present last night might just have witnessed something truly historic.