Analysis: GOP sharpens tone on Palin's night

Forget the hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast and the firestorm that greeted Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's entry on the national scene.

On Wednesday night, the Republican National Convention finally got down to business: painting Democrat Barack Obama as untested, even dangerous, and boosting John McCain as a reformer who can be trusted to change Washington.

Not to mention introducing the obscure first-term governor he announced as his running mate five days ago as a tough partisan ready to ridicule the opposition.

The language was sharper, the pacing faster, the convention floor more crowded and the audience more animated than they had been at Tuesday's subdued opening session. Monday's evening program had been canceled because of Hurricane Gustav.

On Wednesday, Palin was the featured speaker and Obama the designated target, portrayed by speaker after speaker as elitist, indecisive and misguided on everything from taxes to terrorism.

Palin even laced her autobiography with barbs.

"I was just your average hockey mom (who) signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids' public education better," Palin said. She ran for the City Council, became mayor of her hometown of Wasilla and then governor.

"And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves," Palin went on. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

That was an unmistakable reference to Obama's résumé and one of several lines in a take-no-prisoners speech that displayed her credentials as a campaigner. Palin signaled that she is more than willing to take on not only Obama and his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, but also those who have been dissecting her qualifications for the White House, often unfavorably.

Saying she was "not a member in good standing in the Washington elite," she offered "a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

That line brought boos and jeers by the crowd to TV cameras and journalists working in the press stand.

Palin focused in particular on energy, which the campaign sees as a signature issue for her, calling for more drilling and more nuclear power. Convention planners also aired a video outlining McCain's economic proposals.

Still, the chief speakers in prime time, Palin and keynoter Rudy Giuliani, focused not on detailing McCain's policy proposals but on defining his opponent. In his text, Giuliani said the word "McCain" 15 times; he said "Obama" nearly as often, 11 times.

The hard-edged rhetoric seemed designed more to rally Republican troops than appeal to undecided independents.

The former New York mayor suggested that Obama had switched positions on such issues as Jerusalem's status, warrantless wiretapping and campaign financing. "If I were Joe Biden, I'd want to get that VP thing in writing," Giuliani joked.

"He's never had to lead people in crisis," he said of Obama. "Not a personal attack. A statement of fact. Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada. The choice in this election comes down to substance over style. John McCain has been tested. Barack Obama has not."

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