Sarah Storms St. Paul

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008; 10:52 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 4 -- Let's face it: She was likable.

By rolling out the kids, the hockey-mom narrative, the small-town roots, the woman who got rid of the governor's jet and the governor's chef, Sarah Palin, struck some populist chords that are likely to resonate with viewers from the other 49 states.

She was relaxed, confident and charismatic. I ran into McCain confidant Mark Salter moments later, and he was ecstatic -- well, as ecstatic as the taciturn Salter can be -- and said they knew of her speaking prowess all along. "We looked at tapes," he said.

But did the Alaskan convince those watching that she was a potential president? I thought she was less effective in the second half, as she read the speechwriters' words mocking Barack Obama as all talk and no action. Does the former mayor of Wasilla really have the standing to criticize Obama as inexperienced?

The most telling passage Wednesday night made clear that John McCain and friends are going to continue running against the media -- as should have been clear from Steve Schmidt's comments to me that news organizations are on a vicious mission to "destroy" Palin.

"If you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite," Palin said, "then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone." But that's all right, because she had a "news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion."

Well, running against the press is old hat in Republican circles. And there may be a few graybeards who say, "How can so-and-so be a serious candidate for president when I've never had lunch with him/her?" But most journalists weren't so much biased against Palin as skeptical that she had the experience to step in as commander-in-chief, the standard that McCain himself had repeatedly touted.

Palin didn't do much on issues beyond energy, and that might have been a missed opportunity. But amid the media circus of the past few days, one observation about the way she spotlighted her eldest son, going to Iraq; her pregnant 17-year-old daughter; and her infant son, who has Down syndrome:

It is perfectly fine to showcase your family as you introduce yourself to America. But then you can't turn around and slam the press for writing about your family in a less flattering light than you would prefer to present them.

L.A. Times: "The woman seeking to become the Republicans' first female vice presidential candidate portrayed herself as a feisty small-town outsider willing to take on the Washington establishment."

N.Y. Times: "Her speech at the Republican National Convention, if delivered with confidence and ecstatically embraced in the hall, may prove to have been the easy part.

"From here, Ms. Palin moves into a national campaign where she will have to appeal to audiences that are not necessarily primed to adore her. She will have to navigate far less controlled campaign settings that will test not only her political skills but also her knowledge of foreign and domestic policy. And she must convince the country she is prepared to be vice president at a time when the definition of that job has been elevated to the status of governing partner."

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