ST. PAUL — Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin is set to make her first appearance on the national political stage tonight to accept the Republican nomination as vice president amid swirling controversy over her family and experience.
Palin, only the second woman to ever run for national office on a major party ticket, will appear at the Xcel Energy Center here amid turmoil both within the Republican National Convention and her personal life given the news stories about a pregnant teenage daughter, an ethics investigation by the state legislature and McCain’s vetting of her.
Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, briefed reporters Tuesday, saying the convention is back on track after being rearranged because of Hurricane Gustav and will move ahead with a full schedule of speakers.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I., Conn.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson, who ran against McCain in the primaries, were expected to deliver the keynote speeches on Tuesday evening, touching on McCain’s personal story and reputation as a maverick. Campaign and convention officials confirmed Cindy McCain, the nominee’s wife, will give a speech as originally planned, but they would not confirm when.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was bumped from Tuesday’s program, is expected to speak tonight, although the program’s schedule was subject to changes, according to officials.
But the spotlight tonight is devoted to Palin, whose meteoric political rise is the center of curiosity, some consternation and general support among party stalwarts.
Davis declined to give details about Palin’s speech, but said it will give her the opportunity to set the record straight.
“I wouldn’t say this speech is more important [than any other vice presidential speech],” Davis said. “I think it is a unique opportunity, frankly, considering the swirl [of controversy] for her to actually get out to tell her story and for people to see beyond some of the media fog.”
Fog or not, Republican delegates attending the convention said they would stand behind Palin, although some had hoped for a different vice presidential pick.
Karen Pausman, 58, an alternate delegate from Texas, who is in carpet sales for commercial properties, said she had hoped McCain would pick her home state senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, as his running mate, but was still happy with the choice of Palin.
“We’re very excited about a woman,” said Pausman. “We’re excited to see the party bringing up some new young leaders and we like how she approaches her life and family.”
Faye Czyzyk, 55, a registered nurse from Los Angeles, who is an alternate delegate for California, said she is glad McCain picked a woman.
“I think [Palin] has accomplished so much,” Czyzyk said. “I don’t consider her not having experience.”
Czyzyk said she had hoped McCain would pick former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom she supported in the primaries, as his running mate, but she still backs Palin.
“She has good experience at the local and state levels, rather than being a senator or congresswoman who just sit down and legislate and don’t know what is going on at the local level,” she added.