Prime-time Palin

Like her or loathe her, Sarah Palin has already proved herself a force to be reckoned with in presidential politics.

Perhaps because so many people were eager to learn more about the Alaska governor and GOP vice-presidential nominee, Palin’s speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night drew 37.2 million TV viewers, Nielsen reported Thursday.

That’s just 1.1 million fewer than the number who tuned in to watch Barack Obama give his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week. Obama had already set the viewership bar far higher than any previous nominee’s acceptance speech. And 10 networks carried Obama’s speech, while only six carried Palin’s. It was a strong showing for a newcomer.

Additionally, Palin’s presence on the GOP ticket is already paying dividends for Team McCain. A CBS News poll released Thursday showed McCain-Palin in a dead heat with Obama-Biden. A week ago, the same poll showed McCain trailing Obama by 8 points.

Her speech Thursday night drew plaudits from folks across the political spectrum. Joe Klein, a liberal-leaning
Time magazine columnist, called it “a brilliant speech” and said, “Palin established herself as a major-league performer.” This despite the fact he thought her speech was short on substance and long on typical Republican themes such as lowering taxes.

But one would expect any Republican nominee to harp on traditional party themes. Palin did it with panache and humor, as well as some well-aimed attacks at Barack Obama’s experience.

The test for Sarah Palin now will be whether she can maintain that same, small-town, reformist persona while challenging the Democrats, without convincing too many voters she is more pit bull than hockey mom.


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