I mentioned in yesterday's somewhat pessimistic note that in order for Governor Sarah Palin to return to being a positive for the McCain campaign two things needed to happen: Palin and/or McCain needed to give a speech that would force or shame the media into backing off criticizing Palin's family, and Palin herself would have to give a brilliant acceptance speech.
The latter certainly happened.
I thought that Bill Clinton's DNC speech (especially the second half of it) was one of the most effective political speeches I'd ever seen. Palin matched him, and Giuliani may have matched him as well.
The one-two punch of those two speakers was, I believe, devastating to Barack Obama. This is not to say that they convinced Democrats to vote for McCain, just as Obama didn't convince Republicans to vote for him. This vote is about the middle...especially the female independent voters...and both Rudy and Sarah made obvious and effective pitches to them.
Rudy's main pitch, as it frequently is, was about safety. You and your families will be safer with John McCain as President than with Barack Obama. He also mentioned that parents rather than government should decide where kids go to school, an issue which may not be at the forefront of thinking of suburban white women with good public schools but which can be effective nonetheless with the emphasis on good parenting.
Rudy's speech in general was dynamic, intense, humorous, and as good as the high expectations I've come to have of hizzoner. My wife said "It's about time the Republicans start getting more energetic in their speaking and start being more aggressive in going after Obama. And it's great to see them with a sense of humor."
Governor Palin had several main points, not least of which is appealing to small-town and blue-collar middle America. She also directly addressed parents of "special-needs children" saying they'd have "an advocate and friend in the White House." It was a brilliant way to soften the edges on how suburban women might picture a social conservative.
Both of them simply skewered Barack Obama as a man with no experience, especially in anything involving real leadership, a man who changes important positions based on political expediency or whom he believes is listening, and a man "who uses change to further his career instead of using his career to further change" (like John McCain, implicitly.)
One could almost see a political death-by-1000-cuts on Barack Obama. For this viewer, it was a joy to watch.
Both prime time speakers made clear that Obama wants higher taxes, bigger government, and a weak foreign policy. And both emphasized how all those things are bad for the nation as a whole and for citizens individually.
They also both made a critical point (most explicitly by Rudy) about "change". Rudy said that "change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy." He added that "there's good change and there's bad change." I believe this is a key argument that must be made repeatedly against Barack Obama because it's obviously true if you can get through the mind-numbing haze of the liberal kool-aid that many politically naive independent voters, aka soccer moms, may have drunk simply by virtue of repeated exposure to the dominant liberal media.
As far as getting the media to back off from attacking her family, I think Palin did exactly the right thing: She showed off her family proudly and noted that her family had its joys and challenges just as any other and that "some of the greatest joys bring the greatest challenges", an obvious reference to her pregnant daughter. She basically dared the liberal media to keep up their attacks now that the nation has seen her beautiful family.
As my wife said, Palin came across as wholesome, intelligent, and honest. The speech was close to perfect in composition and nearly as good in delivery. (I assume she didn't write the speech but probably had substantial input into the words.) Palin showed herself to be ready for prime-time politics. And with her jab at Barack Obama when she said that being mayor was something like being a community organizer except that she had actual responsibility, she made her move to stake out a claim for having not only enough experience, but more relevant experience "than the Democratic candidates combined." The McCain campaign showed its intention to thread the needle of showing her executive experience, albeit short, to be highly relevant, while claiming Obama's legislative experience to be weak, non-committal (nearly 130 "present" votes), and all but irrelevant.
I, who don't claim to be unbiased, believe it's a very strong argument if it is not too subtle for soccer moms. The verdict is still out on that "if", but it's a tactic with very little downside, not least because it keeps the debate going about whether Obama's qualifications are better than Palin's, i.e. the Democratic candidate for President arguing whether he's more experienced than the GOP candidate for Vice President. As I noted yesterday, it makes John McCain look all the more "ready to lead".
I'm very happy for Governor Palin and for Rudy Giuliani. Both were fantastic tonight and I believe both were very effective. If John McCain can give a speech on par with theirs, I believe we'll see this race back to within the margin of error within a few days at which point the debates will become truly critical.
All in all, I don't think the GOP could have asked for a better night.
[For an excellent insight by a major newspaper into the liberal treatment of Governor Palin, we must, as we too often do, look outside our own borders. Please see "Sarah Palin gets the spiteful Margaret Thatcher treatment
", by Janet Daley in the Telegraph (UK).]