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Palin Comes Out Fighting

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Sarah Palin electrified the crowd at the Xcel Center on Wednesday night by describing herself as a "hockey mom" and delivering sharp comments to her critics and opponents. Watch Full SpeechVideo Editor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 3 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin electrified the Republican convention Wednesday night, pitching herself as a champion of government reform, mocking Democratic candidate Barack Obama as an elitist and belittling media criticism of her experience.

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In a speech that served as her introduction to most of the nation after Sen. John McCain's surprise decision to pick her as his vice presidential running mate, Palin pitched herself as the product of small-town America and laced her address with sarcastic digs at Sen. Obama. She said it is his experience, not hers, that is lacking, and she embraced the role of leading the attack against the Democratic ticket.

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities," she deadpanned. "I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening."

Palin, who would be the first woman elected to the vice presidency, said she will ignore the "Washington elite" who do not consider her qualified for the post, and she served notice that she will not wilt in the face of critical coverage that followed McCain's announcement.

"Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators," she told the convention delegates, who wagged their fingers toward the arena's media boxes as she delivered the punch line. "I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion -- I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

The 44-year-old wife and mother of five was greeted with thunderous applause after a fiery and rousing introduction by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who called her a woman "who has no fear" and added: "This is a woman who stands up for what's right."

Palin focused on almost every tactical misstep Obama's campaign has made, painting a caricature of the Democrat as an out-of-touch elitist and a lightweight celebrity with no sense of what matters to average Americans.

"We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco," she said. Mocking the speech in which Obama accepted the Democratic nomination before a crowd of more than 84,000 at a Denver football stadium, she asked: "When the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot, what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?"

She leaned heavily on her own biography, introducing her husband, Todd, as a commercial fisherman, a union member, a world-champion snowmobile racer and an Eskimo. She described herself as a mom-turned-politician with the "same challenges and the same joys" as other families.

She also offered at least one apparent ad-lib: "The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" she asked. "Lipstick."

Palin pledged that she would join McCain in a crusade for change, promising to "govern with integrity, goodwill, clear convictions, and . . . a servant's heart." And she praised McCain's character, making it clear that Obama has not served his country the way McCain has.

"It's a long way from the fear and pain and squalor of a 6-by-4 cell in Hanoi to the Oval Office," she said of McCain's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "But if Senator McCain is elected president, that is the journey he will have made."


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