In her second solo campaign appearance in the Lower 48, Sarah Palin revved up a crowd at an indoor rodeo in Golden with well-worn excerpts from her acceptance speech and fresh applause lines about the banking crisis that dominated the news Monday morning.
The Republican also announced her “mission” in a McCain administration would include a focus on energy security, government reform and help for families with special needs children, such as her own newborn with Down Syndrome and a nephew with autism.
The Alaska governor spoke for about 20 minutes to a slimmed-down crowd at her second event in Colorado since winning the vice presidential nomination less than two weeks ago. As at all her appearances, Palin arrived with her husband, “First Dude” Todd Palin, relied on a teleprompter and departed before the cheers died down, without taking questions from the crowd or the press.
Later Monday morning, Democrat Barack Obama spoke to an overflowing crowd in Grand Junction on Colorado’s Western Slope before heading to the southern Colorado city of Pueblo.
And — illustrating Jefferson County’s touted role in winning Colorado’s hotly contested nine electoral votes — Obama plans to speak at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden south of Denver on Tuesday, marking perhaps the busiest political days for the city since it was Colorado’s territorial capital in the late 1800s.
Palin blasted managers and regulators for the financial turmoil that engulfed Wall Street institutions over the weekend, as investment bank Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and brokerage Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America. Insurance giant AIG also sent out tremors Monday as the foreclosure crisis continues to reverberate through the economy.
“This crisis is an issue of real concern, not only for those in our financial markets but everyone across this country,” Palin said. “It’s taking a toll on our economy and that means people’s life savings.”
Echoing her running mate’s call to reform a “patchwork” of financial regulations, Palin sounded a populist note about Wall Street woes. “Guys and gals, our regulatory system is outdated and needs a complete overhaul,” Palin said. “Washington has ignored this. Washington has been asleep at the switch and ineffective, and management on Wall Street has not run these institutions responsibly and has put companies and markets at risk. They place their own interests first instead of their employees and the shareholders who actually own these companies.”
Palin, who has told reporters she earned a ‘D’ in a college macroeconomics course, offered her economic analysis to the crowd: “I’m glad to see that this time the federal reserve and the treasury have said no to using taxpayer money to bail out another one,” referencing last weekend’s multi-billion-dollar federal rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Critics pounced on Palin’s remarks about Fannie and Freddie last weekend when she said the corporations had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers“ at a joint rally with McCain in Colorado Springs on Sept. 6. Neither corporation cost taxpayers a dime, economists noted, and wouldn’t until after their takeover, which was accomplished the next day.
However, complaining about corporations running amok is beginning to prove embarrassing to the McCain-Palin ticket.
Two of the campaign’s advisers on economic policy are lobbyists for the embattled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to a CNN campaign ad fact check segment. Talking Points Memo reported last week that another McCain finance adviser is connected to the Interior Dept. sex and drug scandal and no bid contracts involving Denver-area Minerals Management Service staff and oil companies.
But the scandals don’t end there — as Palin’s thoroughly debunked stump speech talking point about one of the most infamous examples of wasteful federal spending in recent memory.
Palin repeated her widely discredited claim that she had a hand in rejecting federal funds for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” an infamous congressional earmark Palin supported for years before giving up long after the earmark disappeared.
“On that bridge to nowhere,” Palin said Monday, “I did tell Congress ‘Thanks but no thanks.’ If we wanted a bridge up there, we were going to build it ourselves.” The crowd, riled up by Palin’s numerous references to “reform,” “change” and the Republican ticket’s “maverick” status, cheered loudly.
Departing from her prepared remarks, Palin brought up the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “right here in Jefferson County,” before repeating a standard line from her stump speech about the McCain-Palin “all-of-the-above” energy policy. “We are gonna drill now and make this nation energy independent,” she said to cheers, and then listed “solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen” research as a priority. “We want to bring new ‘green collar’ jobs here to Colorado,” she said.
In a conference call after Palin’s speech, former presidential hopeful Gary Hart scoffed at Republican efforts to don the mantle of alternative and renewable energy. “It hasn’t been at the forefront of any Republican energy plan for the last 25 years,” Hart said, noting that he pushed for the creation of NREL’s forerunner, the Solar Energy Research Institute, in Golden soon after his election to the Senate in the mid 1970s.
“As someone who’s been advocating this for 30 years, I say welcome to the club, but they (Republicans) haven’t done any pioneering work” in renewable energy, Hart said. “It’s fine for George Bush to say we’re addicted to oil, but people shouldn’t get credit for jumping on a train after it’s left the station.”
Palin’s own record on renewable energy is mixed, according to the Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard. Palin vetoed a pioneering wind farm before later supporting it, and this year vetoed hundreds of millions in renewable energy funding for Alaska. Other renewable projects in the state are “stalled due to lack of funding, but Palin approved $2 million for a conference aimed at proving global warming doesn’t threaten polar bears.
The event was announced Friday afternoon as a pancake breakfast for 1,000, but the Colorado McCain campaign changed plans after supporters showed up in droves to claim tickets. After announcing 5,000 could instead attend a speech at the fairgrounds, all tickets were distributed within hours, the McCain campaign said.
On the way out, an Obama demonstrator waving an anti-war sign shouted at the slow crawl of drivers, “How were the pancakes? Just more broken promises?”
Another group of anti-Palin demonstrators crowded the entrance to the arena, waving “Obama Mamas” and “You’re No Hillary” signs. Michelle Wolf, who organized a group of dozens of protesters, said many of the Palin supporters remarked the protesters were better looking than they expected, but only one harassed them, grabbing a sign and throwing it to the ground.
A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy estimated the crowd at 2,500. “It’s not as big as they expected,” he said. Roughly half the Westernaire’s Arena — a hangar-like structure with a dirt floor and grandstand seating for roughly 800 — was empty. Still, the crowd packed in front of the stage and filling the bleachers was boisterous and vocal, leading many of the toddlers in attendance to cover their ears and howl at the noise.
The crowd included numerous veterans, some wearing T-shirts announcing their status and others in VFW vests festooned with pins. Palin drew her loudest cheer near the end of her address when she urged veterans and members of the Armed Services to raise their hands “so we can acknowledge you and thank you.”
Aside from a handful of minorities, virtually every member of the audience was white, similar to the Republican National Convention, which counted the lowest percentage of minority delegates since anyone began keeping track.
Palin’s speech was drowned out several times when a group of spectators attempted to shout down a few Obama demonstrators whenever they heckled the governor. Chants of “USA! USA! USA!” rose from the back of the crowd after someone yelled, “You’re not qualified!” A handful of spectators waved Obama signs, but the vast majority waved printed and hand-made Palin or McCain signs.
After reminding the crowd she gave birth in April to Trig, her Down Syndrome son, Palin called for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and said she doesn’t want government to “get in the way” of medical breakthroughs. Palin has said she opposes embryonic stem-cell research. On Monday the The Boston Globe reported the Republican platform supported by McCain and Palin slams the door on certain kinds of stem-cell research, including promising recent discoveries that could benefit children with Down Syndrome.
Palin delivered a similar solo speech in Carson City, Nevada, on Saturday. After the rally in Golden, Palin was headed for a fundraiser in Ohio and then planned to rejoin John McCain on the campaign trail.