Palin's make or break speech tonight

Jake Turcotte

No one better could have put Sarah Palin's speech tonight in better perspective than the late legendary movie trailer announcer Don LaFontaine. Called the "king of voiceovers" LaFontaine could set up the story line:

"In a rough and tumble world where the enemy is everywhere -- from CNN's  Campbell Brown asking questions of a spokesman to the New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller  -- the world awaits ... and wonders...

MUSIC CHANGE to the William Tell Overture...

"Could a former beauty queen, now a mother of five from Alaska be the next Vice President? First she has to win the hearts and minds of a skeptical America.

"It's the outrageous, feel-good movie of the year: "Sarah Goes to Washington."

OK. Real world: Taking on the Alaskan establishment and wrestling away the top political office in the state after beating two powerhouse names was no small feat for Palin. The woman has shown she knows how to win and impresses people on both sides of the aisle for her substance.

But that hasn't stopped political insiders and pundits from observing that the rising Republican star could have used a few more years of seasoning before running for the second highest office in the land.

Early or not, she's got the spotlight now. And she's had it since last Friday. It's been five complete days since John McCain reminded the country why he's been called a renegade, a maverick, a cowboy. By selecting the-then virtually unknown Palin, he made her the main subject of the GOP convention so far -- and her speech tonight the most widely anticipated of the week.

Contrast this to five days after Barack Obama selected Joe Biden. The news of the day? Hillary Clinton's "come back to the fold" speech, Montana Governor's yee-haw fire-em-up oratory, and Mark Warner ... does anybody recall what he said?

Politico asks this morning, "Can the GOP stop talking about Palin?" It's not just the GOP, it's everywhere.

A quick perusal around some of the major mainstream news sites shows the LA Times leading with, "McCain had criticized earmarks from Palin." The New York Times has "Palin's start in Alaska: not politics as usual."

The Wall Street Journal leads with "GOP tightens VP image control." The New York Post - in typical New York Post fashion - screams, "Shining knights - GOP defends damsel in distress Palin."

The San Francisco Chronicle simply puts it "Spotlight on Sarah Palin."

The Philadelphia Inquirer doesn't lead with Palin - they've opted for Phillies coverage. This is understandable. It's September and the Phillies are two games out of first and barring a meltdown from the Brewers, they've got to win the NL East to get into post-season action. Again, cut Philadelphia some slack. It's September.

But in their election coverage, they've laid out the importance of tonight's speech:

People watch tightrope walkers because they might fall and splatter on the ground, and when they reach the end of the line safely, there is a great release of tension. So it is with tonight’s prime-time acceptance speech by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, picked by Republican presidential candidate John McCain to be his running mate.
One of the most anticipated political speeches in memory will begin to answer whether McCain’s gamble on the unknown chief executive of a sparsely populated and remote state was wise.

But there's no pressure.

Speaking to ABC News, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi puts it all in perspective

"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 said. "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."

The question is, could the audience for Palin's speech top Barack Obama's 40+ million?

We'll find out. She's in the spotlight tonight at 10 p.m. EDT.

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