ST. PAUL, MINN. – Oklahoma Republicans arrived at the Republican National Convetion “almost as a matter of duty” to nominate U.S. Sen. John McCain as their presidential nominee, said Lynn Windel of Ardmore, who attended his seventh convention. Many were concerned it would be difficult for McCain to distance himself from President Bush and his declining popularity ratings, he said.
The selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin by McCain as his running mate perked up Republicans, Windel said.
“They were energized by her speech,” he said. “It was the best vice presidential speech I have ever heard at a national convention.”
Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan, an alternate delegate from Oklahoma City who has been involved in state and local politics for more than 20 years, said Palin was “the highlight of the whole thing.”
Asked what he considered the highlight of the convention, Tom Montgomery, a delegate from Muskogee, said, “The obvious, Sarah Palin.”
“She’s really a change. It was really unexpected,” he said. “I was thinking it was going to be another older white guy.”
Montgomery said Palin rallied Oklahoma’s delegates to get behind McCain.
“He had pretty much lost a lot of the conservatives in the party and he needed someone who would bring them back,” Montgomery said. “If you can energize 10 percent of your party, you can win elections.”
Brenda Jones, a delegate from Oklahoma City, said she has been getting messages from Democratic friends asking her to bring Palin items back from the convention.
She selected campaign buttons, which have a picture of Palin and read, “The hottest VP from the coolest state.”
State Rep. Sally Kern, a delegate from Oklahoma City, said she is leaving the convention with more hope and optimism because of Palin.
“She brought the conservative base back home,” Kern said.
“The most exciting thing was Sarah Palin’s speech,” said Steve Millspaugh, a delegate from Weatherford. “It transformed the convention.”
McCain, not the first choice of Oklahoma GOP conservatives, at least showed he was listening to their concerns when he selected Palin, who is more conservative than the Arizona senator, Millspaugh said.
“We are extremely happy that he knows that without conservatives he doesn’t have a chance and without him we don’t have a chance,” Millspaugh said. “We have to work together.”
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau