DEBORAH AMOS, host:
I'm Deborah Amos, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin is in St. Paul, Minnesota, this week to cover the Republican National Convention. Just ahead, facing a sea of Palin Power signs, the vice presidential pick Sarah Palin electrified the Republican Convention. We'll get reactions from the floor. First...
(Soundbite of applause)
Governor SARAH PALIN (Alaska, Republican Vice Presidential Nominee): Mr. Chairman, delegates and fellow citizens, I will be honored to accept your nomination for vice president of United States.
AMOS: That of course, was Alaska governor, Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention last night. Tell Me More host Michel Martin is in St. Paul, Minnesota, covering the RNC. And she joins us now for an update. Hi, Michel.
MICHEL MARTIN: Hello, Deborah.
AMOS: Governor Palin made her case in the wake of all those questions about her background, her unwed teenage daughter's pregnancy, vice presidential vetting, it's a lot to overcome. So, how do you think she did?
MARTIN: Well, judging from the reaction in the hall, she did very well. Anybody who was able to - were standing, people were cheering, waving hats, the roar was deafening. Big hit, big hit inside the convention.
AMOS: She went after Barack Obama last night. Let's listen to what she had to say.
Governor PALIN: I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.
AMOS: So Michel, what message was she sending with that?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, this is a traditional job for a vice presidential nominee, to sharpen the lines of attack against the opponent. And we saw Joe Biden do the same thing in Denver, but Palin really took it seriously. Clearly, what she's trying to do is to reinforce the Republican attack line, which is that essentially Obama is a lightweight elitist, who is great at giving a speech but isn't so great on delivering. And she used humor, she used sarcasm. She - it was very effective as a speech. The other thing, though, that I noted was that if anybody thought this is going to be kind of a kinder and gentler campaign because there's woman on a ticket, you know, think again. I think in one way, she leveled the playing field. I think that she made it clear that she can throw a punch. I think that the opponents are now going to be throwing some punches back.
AMOS: Yeah, indeed. The night was full of attack speeches by other Republicans. A lot of it was on McCain's military service. But let's go back to see what Palin had to say about that.
Governor PALIN: There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you in places where winning means survival and defeat means death. And that man is John McCain.
(Soundbite of applause)
AMOS: Michel, the attacks were broad. It was on the American elites, it was on cosmopolitans. And then, of course, there was the spotlight on military service. Are the Republicans opening up another battle in the culture wars?
MARTIN: Well, I think that's pretty clear. I think that they made it clear that this isn't just about sort of the issues and policy per se, but it's also about, you know, who do you like - where do you stand in the culture, you know. Who are you, the attacks on the news media, the - she had one line that got a lot of applause where she said, I'm not here to gain the favor of the Washington elite. You know, I'm not one of them, and I'm here to serve the American people. It really is another front in the culture wars. And I thought it was interesting that when it came to talking about specific policy that Sarah Palin talked about John McCain's record and not her own. That's because she doesn't have a record in national policy.
AMOS: Are we starting to see the themes of the campaign from this speech in particular?
MARTIN: I think very much. I mean, remember this is a very short campaign. It's eight weeks. It's an eight-week sprint from start to finish. So both sides have to kind of figure out what territory is it there. In one hand, it's a very long campaign. I mean, the primary started extremely early on both sides. Republicans were able to wrap their primary campaign a couple months sooner than the Democrats. But the actual general election campaign is only eight weeks. And so, both sides really have to come out as sharply and swinging.
It was interesting that this convention, because it comes second, answers the Democrats in some ways. And it'll be very interesting to see how the Democrats countered. Of course, the Democrat's argument last week is that the Republicans are making a big election small. They're making something big - big issues, big themes - about something small, which is, you know, character, personality, identity politics. The Republicans seemed to be answering by saying that those things matter. They did open up policy differences around taxes, oil drilling, for example, was of sort was another big applause line in her speech last night. But part of the terrain is going to be not just what you know and what you do but who you are and if we like who you are. And that can make for a very interesting campaign, it can also make for a very ugly one. And we're going to see what happens very quickly.
AMOS: And just quickly, what do we have tonight?
MARTIN: Well, tonight is the big night. It's John McCain's night. They're actually reconfiguring the stage for him. I mean, there's been this very kind of stripped down square cube that most of the speakers have spoken on so far. It's being reconfigured to kind of bring him further out into the audience. I think that it sends the message that he is a maverick. The line that they're trying to promote is that he's a maverick, a man who's not afraid to stand alone. And they're going to try to visually reinforce that by reconfiguring the stage. It will be really interesting to see how that works.
AMOS: Thanks, Michel.
MARTIN: Thank you.
AMOS: Tell Me More host Michel Martin joined us from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. And Tell Me More is giving you a backstage pass to the Republican National Convention. Michel Martin will blog each night from St. Paul, Minnesota. So later today, meet her back at the blog. Go to npr.org and click Tell Me More.
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