RNC Night 3: Sarah Barracuda Night

Watching the Republican convention last night, I was struck by how poorly some of the speeches were delivered. I’m not saying this to pick on the Republicans – this seems to be a general malaise in our political system. Admittedly, I tuned in and out early the evening, but I was not impressed with what I heard.

I couldn’t even listen to GOPAC chairman Michael Steele, who’s supposed to be good at this kind of thing. Then, the ranting guy who looked so much like Mitt Romney – well, I’m not sure what was up with him. But the worst of the night might have been Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle. She was brutal – pausing for grudgingly offered applause after almost every sentence. It was tedious.

Fortunately, the bigger lights performed well. I could listen to Mike Huckabee anytime. And Rudy Giuliani: as much as I might dislike his cross-over politics, he is certainly a master of the microphone. I really wish I could like that guy more.

The night, of course, belonged to Sarah Palin. And while she lacks the stage charisma of Giuliani, she has a disarming grace about her that exudes a rare combination of confidence, competence, and earthy approachability. She certainly had her audience in the palm of her hand. Even while staying away from the social issues that really would have had the house rocking, there was an excitement evident that I haven’t seen in the GOP since I don’t know when.

The more I think about this appointment, the more brilliant I think it was. Palin brings to the McCain candidacy the one thing it was lacking most: passion. It’s not so much her age, or her gender, or her good looks, or her “Sarah Barracuda” reputation – all of these elements play a role, but there is a magnetism about her (not unlike Barack Obama) that just makes her very easy to like. . . a lot.

That was McCain’s political weakness, as I see it. He’s respected, he’s trusted, but nobody was excited about him. I’d see poll after poll showing, in so many words or less, how much more supportive Obama’s supporters were of him. I tried to think it wouldn’t much matter, as McCain’s supporters – even the lukewarm ones – would eventually end up voting for him. But I did have nagging doubts as to whether too many of the more or less conservative folks would stay home, while the Obama wave crested.

But I think the game is altogether changed, now. The conservative base is thoroughly energized by this woman, and some other folks are seeing the Republican party in a whole new light.

Who would have thought that the future of the GOP would be a “hockey mom” from the tundra? But she just might be. . . and if I were Joe Biden, I would not be looking forward to October 2nd – although I sure am!