Sarah Palin makes history at 2008 GOP convention

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By Carol A. Clark

History was made Wednesday evening at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., as Sarah Palin became the first Republican woman ever nominated vice president. It was the first time in 24 years, since Democrat Geraldine Ferraro was nominated in 1984, that any woman has even been on a national ticket.

Millions of people in front of televisions around the world joined some 45,000 delegates, alternates, volunteers, media and guests in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center to witness the historic moment.

“I accept the call to help our nominee for president to serve and defend America,” Palin said in her acceptance speech.

The excited crowd heard Palin, the governor of Alaska, speak of feeling privileged to have lived most of her life in a small town.

“I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better,” she said. “When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too. Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown.”

Palin said she is not a member of the permanent political establishment and spoke of learning quickly that if a candidate is not a member in good standing with the Washington elite, then some in the media consider that candidate unqualified for that reason alone.

“But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators,” she said. “I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion – I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”

New Mexico Republicans Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson addressed the gender issue during a conference call from the convention Wednesday afternoon.

This is Domenici’s 10th and final presidential convention. “Certainly going back to at least the first five of them, there would have been no consideration to a woman,” he said. “But four or five conventions ago it wasn’t too far fetched that a woman would have been involved.”

The issues raised regarding Palin’s private life are irrelevant, Domenici said. “She will dispel and dispose of most of them tonight,” he said. “I think her family life has very little to do with this and the fact that she’s a mother having anything to do with this is absurd.”

Wilson told two news correspondents they were out of line when they asked her if Palin, a mother of five, including a 2-month-old son, could be a vice president and a mother, too.

“Nobody asked John F. Kennedy if he could be president and also a father,” Wilson said. “We all remember the photos of him and his young children ... It’s time to end the double standard in American politics.”

Most vice presidents don’t help elect presidents, Domenici said. Given one or two appearances in New Mexico by Palin, he said, and she may very well be stronger than McCain.

“She understands the energy issues and the oil and gas issues that we face here,” Domenici said. “She can’t hurt and she just might help (the campaign).”

On energy policies that a McCain-Palin administration will implement if elected Palin said, “Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America’s energy problems  –  as if we all didn’t know that already. But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January ... we’re going to lay more pipelines...build more nuclear plants...create jobs with clean coal...and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources.”

New Mexico alternate delegate Veronica Rodriguez of Los Alamos was seated on the floor of the convention arena during Palin’s historic speech and said she has never been in an atmosphere quite like it.

“It was interesting because the speakers were building up the excitement all night long and bringing things up to just under the boiling point before Gov. Palin came out,” Rodriguez said during a telephone interview this morning. “She gave a phenomenal speech. You see her and she’s so down to earth, plain spoken, and direct; she really connected with the people last night.”

Three former presidential candidates spoke before Palin. They expanded on the convention’s overall theme, “Country First,” and the theme for Wednesday’s events, which was “reform” as they discussed John McCain’s love of America, vision for the future, and long record of service and sacrifice.

“John McCain doesn’t want the kind of change that allows the government to reach deeper into your paycheck and pick your doctor, your child’s school, or even the kind of car you drive or how much you inflate the tires,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney discussed what he called McCain’s ability to repair Washington’s partisan environment and restrain the unchecked growth of the federal government.

We need change all right - change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington,” he said. “We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington - throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain.”

In making the case for Palin, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said she represents a new generation. “She’s already one of the most successful governors in America, and the most popular,” he said. “She’s led a city and a state. She’s reduced taxes and government spending. And she’s actually done something about moving America toward energy independence - taking on the oil companies while encouraging more energy exploration here at home.”

Now the delegates are mainly focusing on this evening and McCain’s speech and his expected acceptance of his party’s nomination for president, Rodriguez said.

The excitement generated since McCain tapped Palin as his running mate last Friday has resulted in an outpouring of support in terms of record-breaking campaign donations and massive crowds packing rallies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.

Palin is scheduled to visit Albuquerque with McCain Saturday evening.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.