Republicans Tout McCain's Service; GOP Convention Distracted by Palin Revelations

All Eyes Now on VP Pick Gov. Sarah Palin and Her Wednesday Night RNC Speech

ByABC News
September 2, 2008, 2:37 PM

St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 3, 2008 — -- Republicans fired up their convention Tuesday night with speeches praising presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, but the party faithful and a curious nation awaits vice presidential nominee, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, who takes the podium tonight.

The speech of her life -- her first national address -- could be a make-or-break moment for the 44-year-old governor.

The little-known politician and her family became the center of attention this week after Palin released a stunning statement in which she said her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant and intends to keep the baby and marry the young father.

Watch the ABC News live special with Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos from the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St.Paul at 10 p.m. ET on ABC

Palin made an early morning trip to the Xcel Center in St. Paul today. She stood at the podium and tried to get a feel for the size of the arena and where she should look to be most comfortable when she steps into the spotlight about 10 p.m. tonight.

The crowd of Republicans in the convention hall will be the largest audience she's ever addressed, and that doesn't include the millions who will be watching from home on TV. Among those expected to be applauding from the convention hall and sitting with the Palin family will be her future son-in-law, 18-year-old Levi Johnston.

"Of course it's a high-stakes night," Rudy Giuliani, the one-time presidential candidate who will be giving the keynote address tonight, told "Good Morning America."

"She's got to make a good speech tonight, answer the questions well, and she's got to show good instincts. I think she's going to show all that," the former New York mayor said.

Giuliani said the furor over her daughter's pregnancy, charges that she lacked necessary experience to be vice president, and her questions about whether she could be the vice president and the mother of five children are unfair.

"Let's give her a chance to explain herself," Giuliani told "GMA." I mean she hasn't even had a chance to make her first speech and we're jumping all over her."

Geraldine Ferraro, the Democrat who made history as the first female vice presidential candidate of a major political party, said the question of whether Palin could be a mother and VP wasn't being raised as a partisan attack.

"Those questions are being raised more by women than men," Ferraro told "GMA."

Giuliani said he was confident Palin would be a hit.

"She's got tremendous ability as a speaker. I've seen her speak, so I think she'll do very, very well. The expectations are high, but I think she'll more than meet them and exceed them," he said.

Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who worked on the presidential bids of former Gov. Howard Dean and former Sen. John Edwards, said interest is building for Palin's acceptance speech.

"All this controversy's going to create a huge audience for her speech whether she walks out there and blows it or hits it out of the park," Trippi told while walking around the Republican convention hall.

"With every question, with every controversy, the audience gets bigger so that when she walks out there -- it could be one of the most dramatic moments of either convention," Trippi said.

Speechwriter and McCain confidant Mark Salter seemed confident that she would exceed expectations.

"She's going to impress all of America the way she impressed all of us," Salter said.

One surprising person who will be watching Palin's back is the Democrat Ferraro.

Ferraro, who had complained that Sen. Hillary Clinton was subjected to sexism during her losing presidential bid, told "GMA" that Palin was open to questions about her experience. But she and others, she warned, "will be watching ... no sexism."

The Republican convention program begins tonight at 7 pm. ET, with speeches by McCain campaign co-chair Meg Whitman who will talk about the economy and adviser Carly Firorina, who willlay out what a first term of a McCain administration would look like.

"We will delve into issue of trade, economics, health care, economics with a special focus on energy and the environment," McCain campaign manager told reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning.

Former McCain rivals former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Mike Huckabee will also speak, drawing a "sharper contrast in their speeches tonight describing what John McCain will do for country as opposed to his Democratic opponents," Davis said.

After the Giuliani speech, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle will introduce Palin, who will accept the party's vice presidential nomination.

After Palin's speech, there will be a roll call vote tonight culminating in John McCain becoming the Republican nominee.

"We're getting a little bit more political tonight than we did before…focusing on the campaign going forward," Davis said.

Davis attacked the media for writing stories about Palin's daughter's pregnancy.

"The salacious nature in which these outlets have been trying to throw dirt at our candidate is inappropriate," Davis said.

"There has been a negative reaction to pursuing these kinds of stories," Davis said.

The McCain campaign continued to defend their vice presidential pick Wednesday.

"She has appealed to a wide variety of voters, Republicans and Independents alike," Davis said.