Lawyer John Ryder of Memphis, a former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and currently his party's national committeeman from Tennessee, was a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here, adapted from remarks made this past week to a Young Republican group, is his take on GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin:
Let me just say two words:
I returned from the convention and went through my e-mails -- nearly every one was about Sarah Palin -- the jokes, the serious commentaries, the forwards -- all of them. Same thing at Church -- that's all anyone wants to talk about. She is the only topic of conversation. That is the first transformation she has worked on this campaign.
Beginning with the surprising announcement of her selection, continuing with the media attack she took for five days, including the soap opera of her daughter's pregnancy, and through her incredible speech at the Convention, she is the story. She took the headlines away from a generally successful Democratic Convention and Obama's acceptance speech. In effect, she stepped on his applause line and eliminated any bounce.
But the transformation is more than just the headlines. For nearly two years Senator Barack Obama has been a phenomenon. He has transcended politics, inspiring millions with a vision of change and hope. He seemed to offer up a new era in American politics. The media built him up as a new leader for a new age. He defeated Hillary Clinton largely because his candidacy offered greater change than hers, even though both were precedent -shattering.
Then along came Sarah.
Her candidacy was also precedent-shattering -- but the Main Stream Media can't abide the idea that a woman could be a conservative. It conflicts with their rigid world view -- all Women must be liberals. The first and natural reaction of the media was to go on the attack -- they pounded her relentlessly for five days, attacking her background, experience, values, policies, family, and in the process created a story. As a result, her speech was watched by more than 37 million people -- about the same number that watched Obama. And hers was a better speech.
Now there is a new story line: middle-class Mom/Governor takes on media and wins. She is the Next New Thing. Barack has lost his novelty status to Sarah Palin. He cannot regain it. Once you are no longer "new" you are old. She is new, he is old.
She has so changed the political landscape that she makes everyone look like last week's newspaper. Mitt Romney spoke to the RNC the day after the convention. I like Mitt. I thought he was likely to be vice president -- but after Palin, his speech seemed tired and old-style. With that epiphany, I understood what a mistake it would have been to pick any of the other contenders. She is the right one.
As a result, the voters will now evaluate Obama as a normal politician, not as a phenomenon. As a mere mortal, he doesn't fare too well: His experience is thin; his accomplishments are negligible; his life story has nothing to compare to that of John McCain. The magic, the transcendence that got him the nomination is gone. He is Samson shorn of his locks. Can he still pull the temple down?
The Obama-Biden ticket has to retool its campaign.
Democrats started this year with the winds at their back: the war was unpopular, the economy was slipping. Bush's approval rating was at an all-time low, consumer confidence was down, and the number of people who believe the country is on the wrong track was about 70%. Add to that the natural inclination of voters to change parties after eight years, and it looked pretty bleak for our side.
What happened is that John McCain won the nomination. John McCain is the un-Bush. By nominating him, our party made clear to the voters that they were not getting four more years of Bush. While the Democrats try to peddle that notion, it doesn't seem to be working. In addition, Bush's numbers are improving slightly.
Second, McCain was right on the surge. And the Surge is working. As a result, the Democrats cannot run against the war in the way they set out to do.
But, given the general unhappiness in the land, the Democrats figured that a message of change would resonate with the voters. It worked for Obama in the primary. In fact, one reason Hillary could not win is that she represented the past, not the future. She was not enough change for the primary voters. Hence, Obama wins wearing the mantle of change.
Then John McCain nominates Sarah Palin -- and between the two of them, they offer the best chance for real change in this country. I think the American people understand that.
So, if the Democrats cannot run against Bush, cannot run against the war and cannot run as the party of change, what do they do?
The will run against Republicans, they will revive class warfare; they will play the race card. They will try to paint McCain as old and out of touch and Palin as an extremist who is out of touch. They will aggressively register voters and turn them out.
This campaign will change American politics on many levels -- but it will be fought out in very traditional ways. And it is clearly, an election we can win.