ST. PAUL, Minn. - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president Thursday, but it felt on occasion more like a coronation than a nomination.
Alaska's wildly popular governor had her big national coming out party Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, and it was before one of the friendliest audiences she's ever likely to see.
Early on, shouts of "I love you, Sarah," looked like they might throw off Palin's rhythm, but she went on to deliver a speech that was both a heartwarming recounting of how she rose to where she is today and a mocking attack on Democratic opponent Barack Obama.
She said she met her husband, Todd, an oil field worker and fisherman, in Wasilla High School.
"Two decades and five children later, he's still my guy," she said.
Speaking before an audience that knew little about her or her state, Palin used the opportunity to spin some Alaska issues in ways that would likely be well received by Republicans elsewhere.
"I protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending," she said, claiming credit for nearly half a billion dollars in vetoes.
The audience loved it, but in reality Alaska has essentially no taxes to protect the people from. And in Palin's time as governor, spending and the budget shot up dramatically as oil money came gushing in.
Republicans who love cutting government jobs cheered when Palin said she drove herself to work and laid off the Governor's Mansion chef.
"I thought I could muddle through without the governor's personal chef," she said, though her children didn't always like the idea.
Those in Juneau know another reason for the dismissal: Palin mostly lives in Wasilla, not the capital, and there's little for the chef to do.
Palin also bragged about putting the state's jet - the controversial acquisition of former Gov. Frank Murkowski that likely played a large role in Palin's becoming governor - up for sale on eBay. She didn't mention that when it failed to sell, she sold it the way most such aircraft are sold - through a commissioned broker.
Palin joins McCain in running as a Washington, D.C., outsider and reformer, based in part on her challenging a culture of corruption within her own party in Alaska.
"We put the government of our state back on the side of the people," she said.
While even Palin's ideological opponents in Alaska acknowledge Palin's strong ethical stands, Palin failed to mention that her ethics reforms were successful only after the revelation of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that has sent numerous legislators, lobbyists and oil executives on their way to prison.
Traditionally, candidates for vice president have more flexibility than the head of the ticket to attack the other side, and Palin indicated her willingness to do that with some stinging barbs directed at Obama and other Democrats.
The self-described "hockey mom" from Wasilla hinted at her toughness, with the well-delivered line: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
The crowd, some waving signs "Hockey Moms 4 McCain," cheered wildly.
Palin confronted criticism head on about whether, as a former small-town mayor and first-term governor, she had enough experience to become president if the need arose.
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, but you have actual responsibilities," she said, alluding to Obama's experience as a community organizer with Chicago's poor.
Palin praised Obama's oratorical abilities, but questioned what he'd ever done besides talk.
"This is a man who has authored two memoirs, but not a single major law," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who Palin attacked along with Obama, issued a statement responding to Palin's speech.
"Shrill and sarcastic political attacks may fire up the Republican base, but they don't change the fact that a McCain-Palin administration would mean four more years of failed Bush-Cheney policies."
Today is the final day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and will feature McCain's main address as the Republican candidate. Wednesday night, McCain made the same "surprise" appearance on the stage with Palin after her speech as Obama did last week at the Democratic National Convention.
The crowd's response was thunderous approval, topping that of Palin and the night's other big name speakers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at email@example.com.
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