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Al Grillo, Associated Press
Crowds at a restaurant in Gov. Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, cheer as they watch Palin accept the Republican nomination for vice president during the GOP convention Wednesday.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican delegates Wednesday night wildly welcomed the first woman ever to be nominated for vice president in the history of their party.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was greeted with three minutes of a standing ovation, as well as multiple shouts of "We love you, Sarah!" Her speech was also interrupted many times by standing ovations.

The loudest cheers of the night, however, were reserved for the somewhat unexpected arrival of their presidential nominee — his nomination was made official after a roll call vote Wednesday night — following Palin's speech. John McCain did not say anything except asking the crowd, "Is she the right choice or what?"

Their roaring cheers left little doubt as to their answer.

Palin opened her speech by talking about McCain, and his service to the country. She only segued into talking about herself when she mentioned his support of the military and how much it meant to her as a mother of a soldier leaving for Iraq.

She also moved quickly through one of the most talked-about stories of the week, the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. The daughter was in attendance with her boyfriend, and she received roaring applause when introduced during the first few minutes.

Being a woman on the ticket is something that did not surprise her, Palin said, since her parents raised her to believe that anything was possible.

"This is America," she said. "Every woman can walk through every door of opportunity."

Her speech was more personal than many others during the night, although she did take a few shots at Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Specifically, she questioned his sincerity and his attempts to cast himself as a political outsider.

It was really only at the end of the speech when she attacked him, and she was almost more playful than vicious — a sense of humor that seemed to play well with the crowd — by poking fun at his fake presidential seal, the completed memoirs that number more than his authored laws, and, in multiple shots, his role as a "community organizer."

Actually, the media was the target of the most well-received attack, when she said she essentially does not care what they say.

"Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators — I'm not going to Washington to seek their opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country," she said, to one of her loudest cheers of the night.

To prove her qualifications as a person who will change Washington, she talked about her efforts to reform Alaskan politics. For example, she got rid of the governor's personal chef, the private plane that "I sold on eBay," and her refusal to accept money for the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere."

Coming from Alaska, she also knows oil, she reminded the crowd. While she said they strongly support the research and development of alternative energy, that does not mean the country should not use the oil and other natural resources they do have.

"The fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all," she said.

Palin impressed members of Utah's GOP delegation, especially Elizabeth Weiler, who made sure she was on the floor to hear the vice-presidential nominee's speech as a guest of her husband, Todd, vice chairman of the state party.

"For the first time, I have a desire to get involved. She speaks to the mother inside of me, the patriotic woman inside of me, the indepen-

dent spirit inside of me," said Weiler, who had styled her hair like Palin's usual updo and even wore similar eyeglasses.

Former Utah Congresswoman Enid Greene Mickelsen, who was the focus of intense national media attention over questions raised how her ex-husband handled their finances, said she empathizes with Palin.

"I know what it's like to be attacked for being a bad mother and having your personal life attacked in public," the mother of four and now a grandmother said. Her advice to Palin? "Tough it out."

She said "there is a lot of hypocrisy" in the criticism surrounding Palin, especially when it comes from women working in the media. "The things they're saying about her are ridiculous," she said. "I want to ask those women how you can be a good anchor and a good mother."

Utah State Senate Majority Whip Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, said Palin's speech turned the convention hall into "a middle-aged concert with a soccer mom as queen."

Or, as Palin said, a hockey mom, who is only differentiated from a pit bull "by the lipstick."

Before Palin, speakers were on the offensive against the Democratic ticket. They also reinforced the qualifications, pride, and patriotism of their own ticket.

Oh, and just in case anybody forgot, they reminded people that McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Rudy Giuliani, who was the keynote speaker right before Palin, delivered 20 minutes of steady blows to Obama and his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

He pointed out Obama's lack of experience, his change of opinions and his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs.

But he really played up the threat that having Obama as the commander-of-chief poses.

"Tough times require tough leadership," he said. "This is not the time for on-the-job training."

Giuliani spoke with vigor, and the crowd loved every minute of his speech. In fact, his speech received cheers as loud, if not louder, than Palin's.

By a roll call vote after Palin's speech, McCain clinched his party's nod, becoming the official Republican presidential nominee.

McCain is scheduled to accept the nomination in a speech tonight.


E-mail: jloftin@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com