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No question Sarah Palin passed her first test with high marks.
She was confident, engaging, likeable. And she certainly displayed the
Teleprompter skills you expect from a former TV reporter. Her family is attractive
– the TV cameras (and no doubt viewers) loved young Piper licking her hand and
fixing baby Trig.
But this was about as friendly an audience as she is going
to get. There’s not much risk in ripping the media or warning about taxes at a
Republican convention. And, for the most part, she was reading someone else’s
words. Her story, delivered well, ghostwritten.
The next test comes over the next few days. That’s when we’ll
see how the other part of her speech – the attacks on Barack Obama — played
outside the convention hall, especially with independents and conservative
Democrats. Palin jumped into the traditional No. 2 role, hitting Obama hard for
weaknesses real (inexperience, limited legislative record) and perceived (detachment,
celebrity). With her own limited experience, we don’t yet know if she’ll be a
credible surrogate. Remember Dan Quayle in 1988? Republicans better hope the
other memory of 1988 is stronger with voters – you remember, Democrats
wondering why they didn’t nominate Lloyd Bentsen instead of Michael Dukakis.
Also yet to be seen is how she’ll handle herself when she
gets stuck in front of a news conference – and she will be. She has to answer
questions about seeking congressional earmarks as mayor of Wasilla, her
apparent flip-flop on the Bridge to Nowhere and the ongoing ethics
investigation in Alaska.
That will give us a chance to see how she thinks on her feet. Again a parallel
to 1988 – look for that first press conference to be staged with a cheering
(jeering?) section arrayed around the reporters.
— Jim Sweeney