Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin: No Shrinking Violet

Let's cut through the partisan filter, Palin's speech last night was impressive, poised, authentic, measured, feisty, engaging, not to mention fascinating. Nobody really knew what Palin was about, the only real exposure the maelstorm of controversy in the last few days. In many ways, Palin's enemies were too aggressive, effectively setting the bars so LOW, she merely had to look somewhat credible to succeed. The fact Palin was so much more than that, explains why many were downright giddy about her performance, sceptical media in tow.

I tried to listen to the speech, not so much focusing on the factual part, the policy, but really the style, how Palin came across. Whomever wrote the speech deserves kudos, because it hit on so many different themes, it read with coherence. Palin spent the first part of the speech defining herself as the small town advocate, introducing her family, essentially winning you over, or at least those with an open mind. People with remember CNN's Campbell Brown was attacked by the McCain campaign earlier this week for her aggressive questioning of Palin, not fair, entirely biased against her. I think Brown's reaction in the aftermath was representative, she said as a woman, it was hard not to feel an emotional connection listening to her description of her family, the average, run of the mill, real life presentation. That reaction is why I see the speech as such a success, most people aren't versed in the detail, it's the general sense of the person and in that regard Palin did herself well.

Having established a sympathetic frame, Palin then turned into a "pitbull with lipstick", and she certainly showed she is no shrinking violet. I actually thought Palin was on the verge of going over the top, the red meat flying everywhere, but it did convey a feisty persona, a sense that this woman is up for the challenge, she will not crack under the pressure of her new found fame. The assassin with a disarming smile, quite at home in the trenches.

It was an introduction on the national stage, and the people watching, most of them, tuned out shortly after she spoke, the media digestion largely an esoteric exercise after the crowd went home. Palin passed the test, far exceeding expectations, while McCain's judgement is still fair game, at the very least, it is easier to understand his rationale, she is simply the new star of the GOP.

However, this is was just a moment, one with legs, but Palin still needs to do more as we move forward. How will she react to reporters questions, and more importantly, can she stand with Biden in a debate, when substance becomes more critical? All this remains to be seen, the media vetting will continue, but as far as the first act goes, last night was a slam dunk, if one is being fair.


Anonymous said...

The bulk of this speech was written by George Bush's speech-writer, and well before McCain had chosen his (or at least named her) as the VP Candidate. The only additions were the personal bits. Hence, 2/3 of the speech was a very well delivered attack, without thoughtfulness or ideas for Americans to chew on.

Yappa said...

I think she did what she needed to do with the speech, but have a couple of comments:

1. She didn't mention abortion, creationism, or religion - at all. I'm not sure what to make of that. It seems almost deceptive. Even Rudy mentioned religion.

2. I have never heard people talk so much about speechwriters when analysing other politician's speeches. It's sort of dismissive of her. She worked on the speech, she approved it, and she stands or falls by it... just like every other politician.

Anyway, good post. Thanks!

Anthony said...

If she continues to compare her experience with Obama's, McCain will have a much easier task to win this election.

Comparing a small-town mayor to a community organizer was brilliant if only because it draws the comparison between the two.

And remember, it was Obama that attacked her small-town experience.

The look on Roland Marton's face as he tried to attack Palin's speech was telling in and of itself. Some Democrats may have fallen for the low expectations...

The best line of the night was when she said that Obama is a man who wrote two memoirs without ever having authored a major piece of legislation. For the average person, that is striking.

Steve V said...

Nobody writes their own speeches, so that angle seems more about agenda than anything noteworthy.

One of my chief criticisms, when McCain picked Palin, it would negate his experience narrative, probably his best contrast talking point. What I have found quite asute, the way the Republicans have pivoted and used Palin's perceived inexperience to contrast it with Obama. In a strange twist, any dicussion of her lack of credentials actually draws Obama's relative inexperience into the discussion, and side by side, they have talking points. What I thought was a liability, eliminating the McCain advantage, is now turning into a argument that follows -is you think she isn't ready, then how can you say he is. Pretty shrewd stuff.

Mike said...

"Nobody writes their own speeches"

Obama did.

Seemed to em to be a typcial pap smear job. Oh she delivered it well and I guess if you want style over substance then she's yer woman.

But anyone who thinks this single-handedly saved the McCain campaign is dreaming in technicolour.

Obama still has more and better experience than her. She will still have to work through the trooper-gate, the banning of books, her over-the-top religous zealotry and - sorry to say it - her family situation.

She may be the darling of the hardcore, but she won't appeal to the mass of voters out there.

And lets not forget, that really, Obama is history in the making, whereas Palin is an imitation 20 years late.

Blues Clair said...

Smart move. Palin's smug and 'corny' speech just fired up the Democrats base, one that is larger then the Republicans.

I am one of the few that was expecting more from her. When introduced by McCain on Friday, I was quite impressed with her intelligence and poise.

But last night, the red (moose) meat was served, piping hot. The 'old boy's network' in Washington will love it.

Steve V said...


Are you sure about Obama, I read he had help too, but I could be wrong?

She certainly hasn't "saved" anything, but Palin's presence has given reason for a recalibration. The only caution I have, Americans eat this sort of shit up, and it could appeal to some blue collar voters, outside of the rabid right. We'll see, but at the least it bears watching.

Anthony said...

i agree with steve here,

I have been saying it all along, as long as they keep comparing the top of the democratic ticket to the bottom of the republican one, the republicans come out ahead.

John Kerry spent the latter part of his campaign arguing with Dick Cheney.

Steve V said...


Here is an interesting tidbit I saw from one of the national tracking polls:

"Perhaps most stunning is that, among unaffiliated voters, just 42% believe Obama has better experience than Palin to be President. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say Palin has the edge on experience. Again, most of the interviews for this survey were completed before Palin’s well-received speech last night. "

Anthony said...

And Axelrod and Favreau have both given interviews where they say they helped obama craft a speech, although they say he gives them the main ideas concerning what to say and that he is the best "speechwriter among the group".

here is a link to the Time interview,8599,1837368,00.html

Anthony said...

Steve as long as this is the narrative, how do you not see an advantage for McCain here?

Blues Clair said...

I think you guys are missing it. Her jabs at Obama were good. But as somebody at the NYTs wrote, her speech was the easiest part.

My American wife said it best. "God can you imagine her as president?"

That line is going to resonate.

Gallop Poll:
Large Democratic Base Provides Big Advantage for Obama.

Like I said before. I thought her speech was going to be better. She needed a grand slam. That was anything but.

Steve V said...

I think it does help McCain, because in a way now, the Dems attack her lack of experience at their own peril. It immediately draws the contrast, and she clearly won't wilt at any suggestions, so the question then becomes- do you just keep attacking McCain, and try to relegate her back to traditional VP attention (not all the way, that will never happen, but stop focusing on her).

I also read, that by 10-1, people think the media is being unfair, the last thing the Dems need is a groundswell of sympathy from her.

Steve V said...


In the grand sheme, yes the speech was the easiest part. That said, the ease with which she entered the national stage, is exactly what was required for this moment, and I actually think she went beyond it.

Forget what the Democrats are saying, and please don't take DailyKos, or other party organs, as representative of anything (because it simply isn't). What I've seen is many in the media, from surprising sources, give her credit for that speech. The reviews are overwhelming positive, taken in totality, so why try and spin it. First step, she didn't fall down, in fact she took a big stride, nothing more, nothing less.

Blues Clair said...

Well, thanks for insulting me. Daily Kos? hmmm.... I don't read that thingy.

"God can you imagine her as president?"


Anthony said...

I think the New York Times audience is the people Palin kind of jabbed last night blues

dont think she was fishing for votes there

Steve V said...


No sorry, that wasn't a reference to you directly. That was a general comment, didn't mean to infer anything.

Anthony said...

Paul Wells was the one who thought Stephane Dion would make the best Liberal leader...

just saying...

Steve V said...

Just to clarify, I actually don't think this was a base appeal only presentation. The word I kept hearing was authenticity, and I think the small town stuff feeds this notion that she's "regular people". What I'm saying, don't discount that sort of appeal, because I think people are looking for something different, that may sway some independents, or the possibility at least.

Anonymous said...

Her speech was not that good. It wasn't bad either, but I think it is a stretch to say it was good. I found it funny to see analysts either praising it lavishly or only tentatively suggesting perhaps as good as it was, it might not appeal to some. It appears to me the media responded appropriately (?) to the threat messages directed their way throughout the day.

The narrative overall is much larger than can any one candidate be President. I have yet to hear one person leaning to either party say that any of the individuals cannot be President. It is a nice parlour game for the pollsters, but it is not the primary factor in anyone's reasoning. The economy, ending the war, budget, energy, taxes - YES. But some sweeping segment is not swayed on the "Can they be President" question.

The Republicans are running a rousing, fiery convention - and Palin's speech fit right into the mode. But they are not talking about how to solve the myriad of problems as much as they are just taking potshots at Obama.

This is a race of bases, now more than ever. The reality is 37% of the US would vote for a rotten turnip if you stamped an R next to it. And probably about 40% would vote for the same if it had a D stamped to it.

The remaining folks are split maybe 70/30 between those who are genuinely conflicted (70) and those who go with the winner (red meat works well for that 30).

So any poll at any time starts from there. I think one of the reasons Republicans run more aggressively is to try to make the biggest sway there.

Do you think Republican doggie Spot here has what it takes to solve the health care crisis? 37% yes right of the bat, 45% if Spot was brushed and grinning a bit.

That's just an example. You could do the same with a Democratic cat Furry if you wanted to be balanced ; ).

I think the reason Republicans will lose this year because McCain, who had the opportunity to move into the middle ground has instead has made a major shift to 1992, with a sprinkling of 2004, when they went full throttle attack. It worked in 2004, and they are trying to make it work again.

I just don't think that is where the US is right now. Sarah Palin is no shrinking violet, but she is not going to bring new voters into the mix. She may rouse the race in a few areas, which she mentioned in her speech - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. And I do think she will be a slam-dunk to the conservatives McCain feared losing. But, ultimately, those states I believe will sit right where they did in 2004 and 2000.

These are the states to watch - Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Personally, I think Palin may hurt McCain in Virginia. I went to college there and lived in Washington, DC, for a number of years. Even in rural areas, I just don't think her stridency will play like it might in some of the midwestern states. Palin and this convention are all about stridency, and Virginia has been moderating for several years now.

That's my prediction at this point.

My other prediction is that it could be a big swing to Obama at the end.

I'll admit I'm wrong if I am, but I think McCain has lost it with this selection. And I don't think he needed to, particularly since he had closed the gap in August.

Steve V said...


Points taken.

I'm not offering any predictions, like I said, it's still Democratic advantage.

Blues Clair said...

Antonio, it is obvious Palin wasn't going for the NYT crowd, no?

and second

Didn't you think that both Hillary and Iggy we're going to win their respective parties leadership races?

just saying...


No problem, I don't like Daily Kos. I would hate to be spinning with them. I actually prefer your blog...


Steve V said...


To clarify, and I again I'm sorry for mixing my opinion into your point, DailyKos serves as a comfort blanket for Democrats. Nothing every goes wrong for the Dems, if you think something is playing badly, or your opponent had a good day, then just head on over, because it will all be negated, everything is wonderful in Dem land. It's just not reality, it's like listening to the religious right and thinking it representative.

I used to post on DailyKos, pretty much from it's inception (user 6299). The site, from about late 2005 onwards became a narrow echo chamber, that seemed increasingly detached, more about propaganda than discussion. It's the equivalent of right-wing radio, and it tends to cloud perspective. That's my take anyways.

I take other opinions of her speech to heart, my opinion isn't necessarily accurate, just my perceptions.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion, Steve, as always.

Hope we can keep you small-time so we can chat. I see a new star in our midst ; ).

Seriously, you have excellent posts and generate good discussions.

Steve V said...

LOL, appreciate your insights Joseph.

Dame said...

I just want To Compliment on Your always honest and fair-minded approach in analyzing the "trenches' .. this was a good example of this special talent and character of you .
I Hope you will get further in Liberal politcs we need people like you on the front.

Steve V said...

Thanks dame :)

Anonymous said...

NBC and Politico both referred to two different focus groups conducted right after Palin's speech among independent swing women and apparently the speech did not fare too well them. They thought that her attacks were "mudslinging" and found the speech a little short on substance. At the end a vote was done among the focus group participants and by a narrow margin the majority had a worse opinion of her after the speech.

This speech was directed at the base, it riled them up, good for her but getting the base isn't gonna win them the election, there was little meat for independents. Especialy her attacks on Obama were very strange, deeply personal and completely unprovoked, esp considering Obama stood up for her during the pregnancygate and effectively closed the book on her daughter's pregnancy thing by saying "My mother had me when I was 18". You really have to have deep contempt for Obama to like the last 2 acts of the speech where she was mocking Obama and launching false personal attacks. That works with the republican base as they hate Obama but independents do not like that as Obama has a 60%+ approval rating among this group.

So far we are on Day 3 of the convention and there has been no hint of a GOP bounce among daily trackers, now, the bounce may come later in the week but one thing is for sure, if by sunday McCain is still trailing Obama in the polls, the election is over. He should be able to move into a lead or atleast a tie in the worst case scenario after 3 days of convention.

Anonymous said...

Unless GOP has a dramatic bounce this election is unsalvagable for them. While we are obsessed with national polls and narratives Obama's campaign manager has said they only care about 18 states, which will swing the election one way or the other. Obama is ahead by almost double digits in swing states like Minnesota, Iowa & Wisconsin all 3 states which have been razor thin in the last 2 election. He has put Pennsylvania and Oregon safely in the democratic column, 2 states that the Republicans try to poach from dems every election cycle. And he is tied with McCain in traditional hard red republican states like Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, all of them were won by bush by double digits. The fact is that we can talk about narratives all we want but so far McCain does not seem to have a realistic path to 270 electoral votes.

Steve V said...


That's interesting about the independents reaction.

I hear you, scenario wise, but I still maintain this will be a very close election, the Dem candidate always faces challenges. If you look at the latest electoral breakdown, I still a path for McCain, but everything has to go his way. Obama has many more combinations to win, but ANYTHING can happen.

Oxford County Liberals said...

This speech will do wonders for her with the Republican right.. but it will do nothing for the Clinton Democrats or Independents. Indeed.. i's reported that Dem supporters and others donated 8 million $ overnight into today after seeing "the pit-bull" talk last night - they were so turned off by her.

One other thing this does - because she threw the gauntlet down, she immediately removed any constraints Obama and especially Biden might have had in going after her. No kid gloves now.. and I expect Biden to tear her apart in the VP debate.

Steve V said...


The Reps raised 7 million right after she was announced for VP, so that stuff is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme. Both of the bases are now engaged...

Steve V said...

Interesting CBS poll out tonight. Obama had a 8% lead, post-convention, the race is now tied. The same poll had Obama with a 3% edge pre-Dem convention, so the bounce is gone and then some. Also, McCain's supporters are now much more enthusiastic, and he his support amongst evangelicals has surged, up 9%. McCain has also done better with independents. Just one poll, but food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I saw that poll as well, Steve, but I do only see it as a blip. Up or down, the CBS poll is one of the more flaky ones. Their poll was of over 3 night, but it was something like 760 registered voters total.

I tend to look at Gallup and Rasmussen tracking 3-day tracking, which are about 1000 voters per night, give or take. I've noticed the number tends to be slighly under 3000 total but it's close.

I may sometimes find them questionable, but over time they do tend to nail the trends overall.

I am curious about one thing. There was supposed to be an intro video of Sarah Pallin last night but it was pre-empted because Guilliani ran long. I guess they are showing it tonight.

Here's the thing. It's not half-bad. It's horribly slanted, but at least it provides some sketch of her life as they want to present it.

I still think her speech fed the base but came across as just nasty to most others (a point you disagree on). But I do think the pre-video would have softened the attacks or given some context. I'm not sure how much you gain back of that after the event has moved on, even if some of the same audience catches it tonight.

Just could be an interesting "what if" factor in introducing a new face on the national stage.

Steve V said...


Point taken, I wasn't presenting this poll as conclusive evidence.

Blues Clair said...

Now now, Steve, is that the only poll your going to show us? Though to be fair, I think a bump is coming for the Republicans as the CBS poll suggests. Unless McCain tanks tonight. Though I think it shall be a good speech

37 million viewers last night for Palin. Amazing.

"Some Republicans suggested that Ms. Palin may have made a mistake last night by skirting past economic issues,"

Also Obama's 10 million raised since Palin's speech is pretty impressive and important as many commentaters have speculated that Palin's speech just fired up the Dems base.


CuriosityCat said...

Tonight I expect McCain to steal the "change" and "reform" thrust from Obama, in his speech.

I would not be surprised if he comes out strongly - with specifics - on just how he is going to try to change Washington politics as president, and with a heavy - and specific - policy on energy, wrapped up in the framing of making America energy independent.

McCain brings more credibility to a change agenda than Obama does, and he will move voters towards him with such a policy.

Obama has his work cut out for him if he still wants to win this one.

Steve V said...

Thought this was fascinating:

ST. PAUL -- The McCain campaign must be giddy with this news, just out from Nielsen: Sarah Palin's speech generated 37.2 million viewers, just a 1.1 million viewers fewer than watch Barack Obama's Invesco Field acceptance speech. As Nielsen notes, only six networks carried Palin's speech compared with ten for Obama's.

If fair was fair, she would have surpassed Obama, which is amazing, considering how widely his speech was washed.

Tomm said...


People watched to see a freak perform and were surprised and amazed at what they ended up seeing.

It was "a happening".

Anonymous said...

I was surprised and amazed as well, but not in a good way.

I never knew someone could make a slam at "community organizers" yet somehow she managed it twice and a couple of the other speakers just to drive the point home.

It got howls of laughter and applause each time.

Next time they want to attack a cornerstone of Americana, I suggest they sling mud at a flag on stage.

I'm glad 40 million people got to see it. Either way, how people respond to last night will go along way for seeing just what drives the US these days.

Tomm said...


I lived in the US for a couple years and there is an undercurrent of blind patriotism that just doesn't exist in Canada.

She really touched people in positive ways, even those that would disagree vehemently with her so-con stands on the issues.

Anonymous said...

I lived in DC for over 2 decades so I know a bit about it too, and rather recently as well.

I'm not saying that she won't touch some folks, but there was not a lot of charm in her remarks.

Don't want to regurgitate my comments from earlier, but bottom line is she may resonate in some areas - and possibly some key areas. But she could also turn off folks in states McCain will need. And they just narrowed their field more because some slightly leaning Dem states got a lot bluer this week.

Tomm said...


I don't know. McCain is as liberal a Republican candidate as we've seen for some time. He'll keep those opinions, and won't be hurt by Palin's opposing views.

Palin may have brought some of the moral majority back in line though.

She probably also captured some hockey mom's and a few Clinton women that just want a strong woman in a position of power.

Anonymous said...


I'm not saying she won't help in key areas. I'm just saying she has turned off a lot of folks as well, including family and friends of mine who live and vote there - some of whom tend to vote Republican. One is a staunch Republican who said she just couldn't vote for McCain at this point because she finds his campaign thus far "whip lash inducing" (her words). She said she just doesn't trust he is doing anything except reacting in order to win. And she said Palin's selection was the final straw, especially after watching the convention this week.

That is just one person, but it fits my sense as well. I've had the (somewhat strange) fortune of living in Virginia (southwest mountain regioin), Florida (red state area / panhandle), central Ohio, and Washington, DC. It doesn't make me an expert by any means, but I do have a "sense" of each one. And strangely they are all "purply" states shifting with the moods of the country.

Virginia is the one to watch, I believe. They elected a black governor in the 80s - one of the first if not the first. Yet it was also a very strong Reagan state. After that they went through a conservative republican era in the state (commonwealth) legislature. But that has shifted pretty dramatically back Democrat in the past 4 to 6 years. They are now on their second Democratic governor in a row (governors there can only serve for a single term). Both of them are very popular, and Warner (the first of the two) appears to be coasting to a huge victory this fall for the US Senate.

I think Obama can do very well there. I think the fact that the polls show a close race is a good sign for him. I don't think Palin will win McCain votes there overall. She may in fact cause McCain to lose votes in Northern Virginia (DC suburbs and exurbs), which is a larger and larger portion of the vote for that state.

You obviously think Palin brings it all together for McCain. I think she makes his campaign more disparate and somewhat strange. When people don't know which McCain is running from week to week, that isn't a good sign (in my opinion).

That's all I'm saying.

4 states to watch, in my humble opinion: VA, CO, NM, & NV. Other that, I think Obama will pick up Iowa. Otherwise I think the states will essentially line up where they did in 2004. But I think those are the 4 to watch. If Obama wins any of them, he'll win. If McCain sweeps them, he may.

Lots of time remains, but that's what I see on the horizon at this point. The only other option I see is Obama swings way ahead in the final week or two. But I don't see that option for McCain unless something major changes the race.