ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Sarah Palin prepared for the speech of her life Wednesday as John McCain's campaign called for an end to questions about its review of her background and derided a "faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee" for vice president.
As GOP leaders lined up to defend her, the first-term Alaska governor took a tour of the Xcel Energy Center stage where she will accept the No. 2 nomination. A few hours later, she and her family met McCain on an airport tarmac as he arrived in the convention city.
The Arizona senator's campaign set the tone for the day early with a written statement that stood out for its admission that Palin is under siege-it condemned "this vetting controversy"-and for its attempt to blunt questions about how rigorously McCain and his campaign explored the background of a candidate who may get the nation's second most powerful job. It also suggested that Palin is a victim of gender bias in the media
"This nonsense is over," senior campaign adviser Steve Schmidt declared in the statement, lashing out at "the old boys' network" that he says runs media organizations. "The McCain campaign will have no further comment about our long and thorough process," Schmidt said.
With a quickly arranged news conference and a fresh television ad, McCain's team also sought to counter Democratic criticism that the first-term Alaska governor is too inexperienced to be president-the same argument the soon-to-be GOP nominee and his Republicans have used against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The efforts indicated advisers are concerned the criticism may be taking a toll on her image.
Surrounded by fellow Republican women, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift bemoaned "an outrageous smear campaign" against Palin and said: "She is more prepared than Barack Obama to be president of the United States."
The new McCain TV commercial quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial that says: "Governor Palin's credentials as an agent of reform exceed Barack Obama's and that she has 'earned a reputation as a reformer' and 'has a record of bipartisan reform.'" Conversely, the ad says, Obama offers only "empty words." It's set to run in key states.
Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Burton hit back. He lauded Palin's "compelling personal story" and oratory abilities but also challenged her to "explain her reformer credentials." Said Burton: "What the American people will be looking for is whether she can explain how the economic agenda offered by her and John McCain won't just be more of the same Bush policies."
McCain shook up the presidential race last Friday by picking Palin, a little-known governor less than two years in office. Since then, a bright spotlight has been trained on the life and record of the self-styled "hockey mom" who has bucked the state's political establishment.
Days after Palin made her debut on the national stage with McCain, the campaign announced that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, was pregnant. Other disclosures followed, including that a private attorney is authorized to spend $95,000 of state money to defend her against accusations of abuse of power and that Palin sought pork-barrel projects for her city and state, contrary to her reformist image.
None of the revelations seem to have shaken McCain's confidence or undermined her support among GOP delegates. McCain's top advisers say they, and the candidate, were made aware of all of potential problems during what they contended was a thorough investigation of Palin by McCain's search team members.
Top McCain advisers said they welcome and expect a review of Palin's mayoral and gubernatorial record but that the media went beyond that.
"Certainly, her record deserves scrutiny, but I think we ought to look at her record," campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters on a conference call. He condemned "the salacious nature" of some news stories designed to "throw dirt at our candidate." He urged the media to "dial it back."