Paul Sancya, Associated Press
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul Thursday extolling the virtues of Sarah Palin.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. finally had his moment in the spotlight, but it took until the last night of the Republican National Convention for him to get it.

"Hockey moms of the world unite," Huntsman yelled out after he took the Xcel Energy Center stage, his voice cracking because of a bad cold.

He nominated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the party's vice-presidential candidate, saying "quite frankly, she's not afraid in a little town like Washington to kick a few fannies and raise a little hell."

The governor wasn't about to let his illness stop him from standing in front of thousands of Republican loyalists as well as millions of Americans tuned in via television.

Huntsman was a supporter of John McCain long before the Arizona senator locked up the GOP presidential nomination and had been given a good place on Tuesday's convention slate — 8:30 p.m. — just before the start of prime time coverage. But his speech was bumped along with much of the original program because of Hurricane Gustav. President Bush ended up taking Huntsman's slot to deliver a video message from the White House supporting McCain.

For a while, it looked like Huntsman, considered an up-and-comer in the national ranks of the GOP, would have no role on the convention stage. He wasn't added to the Thursday program until mid-afternoon, after a final schedule had been announced.

Huntsman made the best of his brief appearance in front of the convention, even altering part of the speech he'd planned to give in support of McCain. Instead, he used the opportunity to laud Palin as offering authenticity in a world full of artificiality.

Then Huntsman turned cheerleader — literally. Several times, he led the crowded convention hall in chants of "Sar-ah, Sar-ah, Sar-ah," and even got them to stand up for a final cheer with a huge picture of Palin projected behind him.

Utah delegates were excited to see their governor on stage, even if it was early in the night's proceedings and he was not giving the speech he originally planned. Despite that, they said that the fact he was nominating Palin was impressive.

"For having a very scratchy voice and sore throat, he did good," Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert said. "He knows Gov. Palin well, and has worked with her as a colleague. He did what he needed to do, he stood up for her."

Utah Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, liked seeing the governor honored for his support of McCain, and the state represented.

"It was nice to have a presence at the convention, and to hear his voice — even if it was raspy," he said.

Huntsman was expected to leave the convention soon after his speech because he was feeling under the weather. Both Herbert and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, filled in for an ailing Huntsman on Wednesday night during the state-by-state roll call vote for president.

Utah ended up casting two of the state's 36 delegate votes for "favorite son" Mitt Romney to settle a dispute over party rules. Romney won all of Utah's GOP delegates by taking 90 percent of the vote in the state's Feb. 5 Republican presidential primary, but dropped out of the race for the White House later than month.


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