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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
ST. PAUL, Minn. — This northern exposure seemed more intense than any TV show.
A contingent of Elizabethtown residents who saw vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speak in person Wednesday night at the 2008 Republican National Convention gushed with enthusiasm about the Alaska governor.
Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry said Palin exceeded expectations — which were high to begin with. Her speech was excellent and “quite genuine,” said Berry, who represented Kentucky as a delegate.
Palin praised presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and blasted his Democratic opponent while touting her own experience in politics.
Berry, who afterward also watched her speech on television, said the energy level of seeing her at the Xcel Energy Center contrasted with watching a two-dimensional screen. As close as the Kentucky delegation was to the stage, it was like she was speaking directly to him, Berry said.
Many people have been exposed to Palin through media stories, not all of which have been flattering, Berry said. She has been treated unfairly, and if she were a male or in the other party, her nomination would have been handled differently, he said.
As for coverage of Polin’s family, which has included reports about her teen daughter’s pregnancy, Berry said a candidate’s children should be off-limits.
As for the convention, it ended late Thursday night with a planned McCain address.
The event as a whole was an opportunity for the GOP to make its case on a national stage, Berry said. “I think we’re doing that well.”
And to have Hardin County representatives at the convention benefits this area, because those who made the trip will spread the good energy at home, Berry said.
Alice Pelkey, an alternate delegate and a parliamentarian for the county GOP, said the party is stronger coming out of the convention than it was going in.
“It was fantastic,” Pelkey said of Palin’s speech. “She was the most down-to-earth individual you’d ever want to meet.”
As for the candidate being a woman, Pelkey said: “Finally, we have come of age.”
Delegate Mike Harris, who is a former head of the Hardin County GOP, said the party needs the involvement of a younger generation.
Also, Palin may have warmed some with reservations about McCain, he said.
“We absolutely love her. The men at the convention are just as enthusiastic as the women.”
Alternate delegate Norma Shehan said Wednesday night’s speeches helped show the party’s unity. She was impressed by the support of the men McCain ran against in the primary election.
“It was an electrifying night,” she said Thursday while riding a bus to the arena.
Tony Bishop, an Elizabethtown City Council member who worked for Sen. Barack Obama’s primary campaign, said both candidates did a good job picking running mates. Both added balance to the tickets.
Democratic nominee Sen. Joe Biden is “seasoned” and knows foreign affairs, Bishop said.
Palin will help McCain garner women’s votes. Her views will help even out shortcomings McCain has with Christian conservatives, Bishop said.
“She’s a fiery lady.”
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.