ST. PAUL, Minn. – Maryland Republicans screamed their support and erupted in applause for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Wednesday night, as the GOP vice-presidential nominee accepted her place on the party’s presidential ticket.
Palin, tapped last week as Sen. John McCain’s running mate, spoke of her husband’s union membership, and repeatedly criticized, to several bursts of loud applause, Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee.
She also praised McCain, who will accept the Republicans’ nomination Thursday night, throughout the 40-minute speech, calling him a “profile in courage” and lauding his support of American troops in Iraq.
“As the mother of one of those troops,” she said, referring to her 19-year-old son Track, who will soon to deploy to Iraq, “that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief.”
Maryland’s delegates, seated in the corner of Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, joined the roughly 20,000 delegates and partisans for several standing ovations.
After the speech, which ended with a surprise on-stage visit by McCain, Free State delegates praised Palin’s “small town values,” her strong stage presence, and what they described as her ability to connect with average Americans.
Tony O’Donnell, a delegate from Lusby, said he was initially surprised by Palin’s selection, but described her as a “strong lady, [with] no fanciness, just straight, plain talk.”
“I’ve become convinced that she’s a stronger leader than the other two combined from the Democrats’ side,” he said, referring to Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden.
The Maryland delegates gave no sign that Palin’s recent press, including the announcement that her teenage daughter is pregnant, would give them pause in their support.
Carmen Amedori, a delegate from Westminster, jumped from her aisle seat on several occasions to cheer loudly, and said Palin was “down-to-earth.”
“In her speech, she gave a one-two punch, and kept nailing those nails into the coffin,” said Amedori, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and former General Assembly member.
Palin, 44, was elected governor in 2006, after serving as a city councilwoman and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 7,000. Her selection as McCain’s running mate shocked pundits, reporters and politicians, as few, if any, pegged her as a serious contender for the slot.
Praised for her independent streak, she has also been dogged by the pregnancy revelation and her previous support for the “bridge to nowhere,” an expensive, federally subsidized bridge to a sparsely populated Alaska island. She later withdrew her support.
Maryland’s delegates have dismissed the criticisms, maintaining that Palin, a married mother of five, is fit for the job.
“She’s intelligent, she’s independent, she’s going to fight for John McCain, she’s going to fight for change in Washington,” said delegate John Leopold, the Anne Arundel County Executive.