Palin takes the spotlight with prime-time speech

Caught up in a media storm over her experience and her pregnant daughter, McCain's vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin is about to address the Republican national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.


ST. PAUL, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Sarah Palin has dominated the
Republican convention for days without saying a word, but on
Wednesday she takes the spotlight with a prime-time speech that
will introduce her to American voters and try to answer
questions about her experience and life story.

Since John McCain made the nearly unknown Palin his choice
for vice president, the Alaska governor has been the center of
a media storm fueled by disclosures about her unmarried teenage
daughter's pregnancy, a probe into her role in an Alaskan
official's firing and questions about her political record.

Palin's anti-abortion and pro-gun history have excited
conservatives and party activists but the appearance on
Wednesday will be the first chance for American voters to judge
her for themselves.

It comes just five days after McCain shocked the U.S.
political world by introducing the 44-year-old first-term
governor as his running mate at an Ohio rally.

"She made her first impression on Republicans in Ohio on
Friday when McCain introduced her," said Fergus Cullen,
chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. "Now she can
make a first impression on the rest of the country."

McCain, 72, an Arizona senator, and Palin will face
Democrat Barack Obama and his vice presidential running mate,
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, in the Nov. 4 presidential election.

The McCain campaign fired back on Wednesday, releasing a
television ad comparing Palin's experience with the
qualifications of Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois.

"She's earned a reputation as a reformer," the ad's
narrator says. "His reputation? Empty words."

Obama said the Republicans had barely mentioned the
faltering U.S. economy at their convention on Tuesday. Polls
show voters rank the economy as the top election issue.

"All these speakers came up, you did not hear a single word
about the economy. Think about it. Not once did people mention
the hardships that folks are going through," Obama said at a
campaign stop in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

McCain arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday and was
greeted by his family and Palin's family. Among those meeting
him were Palin's pregnant daughter Bristol, 17, and her
boyfriend. McCain briefly chatted with both.

Palin, the first female Republican vice presidential
nominee, has stayed out of the public eye in Minnesota for two
days while the revelations about her family and her record in
Alaska surfaced. She has yet to give a news interview or news


She has been preparing for her address with McCain aides
including speechwriter Matt Scully, who drafted her remarks in
Ohio. "This speech is about a record of reform, her case for
Sen. McCain's election and a close-up look at an individual
with both hands on the steering wheel of America's energy
economy," McCain aide Tucker Eskew said.

The speech will give Palin a chance to move past the issue
of her daughter's pregnancy and the Alaska probe into whether
she abused her power in having a public safety commissioner
fired, although it is unclear if she will directly address
either topic.

Palin's walk-through of the convention hall early on
Wednesday was carried live by morning television programs.

Carly Fiorina, a senior McCain campaign adviser, and other
Republican women said the media storm over Palin was a result
of sexism. "The Republican Party will not stand by while Sarah
Palin is subjected to sexist attacks," Fiorina told a news

Also scheduled to speak on Wednesday is former New York
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made a failed run for the Republican
presidential nomination. He said Palin was ready for the vice
presidency and attacked Obama.

"I would say Barack Obama has never governed a city, never
governed a state, never governed an agency, never run a
military unit, never run anything," Giuliani said on CBS'
"Early Show."

The furor over Palin has raised questions about McCain's
judgment and the depth of the investigation that preceded her
selection, and could put a dent in McCain's efforts to build
momentum heading out of the convention.

McCain aides said they would answer no more questions about
the process. "This vetting controversy is a faux media scandal
designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee for
Vice President of the United States, who has never been a part
of the old boys' network," McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said.

Much of Monday's convention schedule was delayed by
Hurricane Gustav's assault on the Gulf Coast, but the gathering
resumed on Tuesday, which marked the passing of leadership in
the party from President George W. Bush to McCain.

Bush did not attend the convention, but praised McCain, who
had been his rival in a bitter presidential nominating battle
in 2000.

"He's not afraid to tell you when he disagrees. Believe me,
I know," Bush told the convention in a brief speech via
satellite from Washington.

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