September 4th, 2008
08:00 AM ET
13 years ago

Analysis: GOP struggles with identity on Palin's big night

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/04/art.palinwave0904.ap.jpg caption="Sen. McCain joined Gov. Palin and her family onstage after her speech at the GOP convention Wednesday."]
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - For the second night in a row, a lot of the rhetoric at the Republican convention Wednesday evening seemed left over from the last cycle, when the fight against terrorism dominated the race.

The economy is the biggest voter concern this cycle, and the theme of the evening - but it didn’t top the agenda Wednesday night. The policy prescriptions were minimal; the party-issued signs proclaiming “prosperity” made for a jarring sight.

The language and terror focus were left over from 2004. The evening’s tone was vintage 1992, with just a hint of culture war.

Surveys suggest Democrats hold the advantage on the dominant issue this year, so Republicans looked to redirect the anger and with base-pleasing swipes at the media and liberal elites.

Former primary season rivals Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani set the evening’s tone with sarcastic broadsides that brought the crowd to life; Sarah Palin followed the trend, her scorn layered under a sunny smile and small-town demeanor.

After a week of enduring tough headlines and dodging the spotlight, the Alaska governor re-emerged and delivered a speech that thrilled the crowd. Palin also proved she inherited President Bush’s gift for sprinkling speeches with Biblical references – like her claim of a “servant’s heart” - that won’t register with much of the population, but resonate deeply with evangelicals.

Her adoption of the evening’s bitter tone may have fallen a bit flat. A focus group of white married women who watched the speech didn’t care for her sarcasm.

But these same voters found her impressive and authentic. They wanted to know more about her personally. And McCain senior adviser Carly Fiorina, who has been at the forefront of outreach efforts to former Hillary Clinton voters, can claim some success: More than one woman in the focus group said Palin reminded them of the New York senator.

The top targets of the night were Barack and Michelle Obama and the news media, with the Democratic Congress close behind. The outsider language that dominated the evening might have struck a dissonant chord: this is, after all, the party that had controlled the White House for the past eight years, and Congress for 12 of the last 14.

But the GOP seemed at times to be struggling with its identity.

So far this convention, praise of Bill Clinton, a VP family connection to the Steelworkers Union, and attacks on Wall Street have all drawn cheers. President Bush’s appearance was barely longer than a commercial break; beyond that, his name has been mentioned in prime time fewer than half a dozen times.

And on the night the party nominated its vice presidential hopeful, the man who currently holds the job didn’t rate a reference.

soundoff (306 Responses)
  1. tim

    Imagine Palin going head to head with Putin...come on...she is a joke...oh wait! Her husband won a snowmobiling contest!

    She didn't say anything last night. My fear is that so many Americans are stupid that they will rule the country. They will make an emotional vote instead of an informed one. This goes to show more than anything how important education is in our country.

    September 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. AA

    In reaction to Mitt Romney attacking Michelle Obama, Mrs Romney is a spoilted typical republican women who landed a rich man. Along with Laura Bush and all the other pathetic republican women. They just have to be a "first lady" I have zero respect for them. They really set women back 100 years.

    September 4, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. NORA, FLORIDA

    I can see why the GOP struggled with identity on Palin. She should have used the forum to talk about herself and family but instead she is trying to win women over with her domineering approach by attacking the other side. There was no substance in this speech which makes me feel that there is no substance in the brain matter.

    It is okay to attack but you better make sure you back those attack with your substance of how to get the job done better!!!!

    September 4, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Janelle

    Palin got her point across last night with a smile and not a scowl? She talked about the issues? After total sarcasm dripping from her, it was almost funny to hear her talk about keeping the Bush tax cuts when the only reason she was able to have a balanced budget in her state was by increasing the taxes of all the oil companies during the biggest oil price boom in history.

    Her only answer to the economy was to bring oil prices down by more drilling in her home state. Not exactly a solution that is nonbiased and many economists agree with Obama that it is just a stop gap measure that will only have a small affect due to the huge growth still going on in China. And if she is so proud of her anti-abortion, anti-birth control, creationism in school values, then why didn't she talk about them last night? That would have shown us who she really is and what she stands for.

    Just because a woman talks tough and acts like a man doesn't make her any more qualified. Even the McCain/Palin supporters know deep down inside that any man with the qualifications that Palin had would never have been selected as his VP. Setting the bar lower just to be able to select a woman and gain the women's vote demeans all of us.

    If we allow ourselves to be used as "token" women, we will never get respect. So the women of America better look long and hard at the real issues and make sure we are voting with our heads and not our emotions.

    September 4, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. FreeNLovIt

    We're not criticizing Palin for seeking a higher office, we're welcoming it, but we want someone who can control both her professional and personal life, especially, if you preach abstience.

    As a Christian, it is important you manifest that relationship of duty to God. You failed God. You failed your own party's values. It is a shame.

    I am against a kid having a kid. She was never there for her daughter and she was clueless with what her daughter was doing. This is bad parenting. Growing up, my mother knew exactly what I was up to.

    September 4, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. FreeNLovIt

    I will never follow Jesus if he preaches that extramarital affair is wrong and he goes around and sleep around.

    September 4, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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