MINNESSOTA, September 4 – Vice presidential pick Sarah Palin emerged from a political storm to a rapturous welcome from the Republican convention on Wednesday, and took a series of sharp swings at Barack Obama.
Reverberating with energy after Palin’s speech, the convention formally nominated John McCain as the Republican candidate to clash with Democrat Obama on November 4 after the fabled roll-call of the states.
Palin’s passionate, hardnosed speech rocked the convention hall, and a beaming McCain bounded onto the stage to embrace his controversial running mate pick, as the party’s influential conservative movement took her to its heart.
"Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?" McCain asked, following days of political and personal revelations about Palin, the first-ever woman on a Republican ticket.
Palin’s family joined her on stage, including pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol, boyfriend Levi Johnston and the Alaska governor’s four-month-old Down syndrome son Trig.
In a speech which mixed homespun small town values and searing political rhetoric, Palin, who will be formally anointed vice presidential nominee on Thursday, styled herself as a scourge of the Washington elite.
She lauded the character of former Vietnam war hero McCain, and contrasted it to what she described as the "dramatic speeches before devoted followers" of Democratic White House nominee Obama.
"For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words, for a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds," said Palin.
The 44-year-old mother of five and staunch opponent of abortion, also noted she had served as a small-town mayor in her native Alaska, saying in another swipe at Obama that the job was like being a community organizer "except that you have actual responsibilities."
Obama got his start in politics as a community organizer in Chicago after law school.
"What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?" Palin asked in another fierce attack on Obama.
"The answer is to make government bigger, take more of your money, give you more orders from Washington and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world."
The Obama campaign struck back in a strongly worded statement, saying that though Palin’s speech was well delivered, it was the work of President "George Bush’s speechwriter."
Spokesman Bill Burton said the speech "sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we’ve heard from George Bush for the last eight years."
"If Governor Palin and John McCain want to define ‘change’ as voting with George Bush ninety percent of the time, that’s their choice, but we don’t think the American people are ready to take a ten percent chance on change."
Since she was picked on Friday, Palin has disclosed that Bristol was pregnant, faced claims she abused her power as governor and mayor of a small town, and sought federal cash for programs opposed by McCain.
Palin painted herself as maverick in McCain’s image, primed to go to Washington to launch a wave of reform.
"I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment and I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.
"But here’s 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."
Democrats have questioned whether Palin has enough experience to serve a "heartbeat" from the presidency, but she defended her credentials, saying she was steeped in executive leadership experience.
"Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election," Palin said.
"In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."
The speech represented a key moment in a Republican bid to quell a storm raging around Palin, which led Democrats to question McCain’s judgment and the extent to which he vetted his shock choice.
In a speech punctuated by standing ovations from delirious Republicans, Palin said she got her start as a simple small town ‘hockey mom’ and quipped : "you know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
But just before Palin was due to speak, new revelations about her past made headlines, as it emerged she had told ministry students in Alaska in June that US troops in Iraq were sent on a "task that is from God."