R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT

RNC: Day 3, Part 2 (A dispatch from the ground)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Palin fever has gripped the nation — quickly making an unknown governor the entire hope and breadth of the conservative movement in one fell swoop.

The turning point came here on Wednesday, when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took to the stage and delivered a “barn-burner” speech that chronicled her family life, hockey mom cred, self-proclaimed “reformer” status and her plan to “Shake up Washington” with the Original Maverick® John McCain. (Full speech VodPodded at left.)

“What a breath of fresh air!” crowed ex-Sen. Fred “Law & Order” Thompson the night before (in what Jon Stewart correctly noted was a hands-down impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn, “I say, I say!”).

But the air she brought wasn’t as fresh as it was hot — intensely heated rhetoric that dismissed Democrat Barack Obama as an unqualified, tax-raising, head-in-the-clouds wimp that she could pulverize with one hand while pumping milk (her analogy, not mine, from earlier in the week) with the other.

Palin drew stark distinctions between her work as mayor and then governor of “small-town” America, and Obama’s totally lame “community organizing” in the “cosmopolitan” (Rudy’s work) depths of Chicago. (She surely meant to remark on all that he’s done afterward, such as a landmark ethics reform bill, but probably missed it because the teleprompter backfired — and yet she made it through, adding a new legend to her already mythic if sudden candidacy.)

She drew prolonged, pulsating applause as she spoke of family values and reforming Washington — where her running mate has spent most of the last three decades as a “leader” — and got possibly the best zinger of the night in about what is left after Obama’s “Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot” (presumably the same lot where President Bush got them in 2004).

She also drew a lot of applause on “Thanks, but no thanks” on the Bridge to Nowhere (forgetting to mention — again, probably a teleprompter error — that she’d supported it until it got panned on national television), and brought voters’ eyes back to what really matters: never using the word “bitter” while running for public office, because it will be taken out of context over and over, thereby proving that the utterer is unfit for command.

Yes, Sarah Palin delivered, big-time. But, as usual, there were some Hollywood elites who just wouldn’t listen — including high-falutin’ (if staunchly conservative) Ben “Win My Money” Stein.

“She should have Henry Kissinger babysitting her,” he said.



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