by Jimmy Boegle
(Editor's note: Our parent company, Wick Communications, sent reporter Katie Evans to the Republican National Convention. While there, she caught up with one prominent local McCain delegate, state Rep. Jonathan Paton. Here's Evans' story.)
ST.PAUL, Minn.--As Arizona state Rep. John Paton watched Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin give her speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, he felt vindicated.
"I had secretly hoped they were going to pick her (for the vice presidential nomination) in the first place," said the representative for District 30.
And seeing Palin speak, he said, was exciting.
"My biggest reaction is that last night, John McCain's chances for being president just basically crystallized," he said. "I've never seen energy like that in a room. And the reports I'm getting from back home, people are just ecstatic about that speech."
Paton said Republicans are pumped in a way he's never seen before--at both ends of the party. He said Palin has helped unify the Republicans, and he believes her pick alone started the process.
"There was a lot of in-fighting going on," Paton said. "Palin lit a fire under everybody, and now they're kind of excited about it."
He said he thinks the criticism Palin has faced since being picked as the vice presidential nominee has "really just started amplifying the energy," and he thinks it was a contributing factor to the reaction Palin got as she walked onto the convention stage for the first time Wednesday, receiving about two minutes of nonstop cheering.
"Then you saw the different speakers," Paton said. "(Rudy) Giuliani was basically like a prosecutor making his case, and when he finished, to be honest with you, she could have read from the phone book, and people would have been happy.
"All that energy just exploded after she started speaking," he added. "It was unbelievable."
He said he was glad he wasn't McCain, who has to try and top her speech when he gives his acceptance speech tonight.
"I think that the biggest burden is for John McCain to hit it out of the park after that," he said. "What a tough act to follow."
What started as a "slow convention," Paton said--with the first day being stripped down to strictly business as Hurricane Gustav made landfall on the Gulf Coast--really built in excitement over the four days.
One amazing moment for Paton, he said, was the delegates casting their votes for McCain's nomination Once it got to Nebraska, all the states passed so that Arizona's delegates could cast the deciding vote.
"What was so cool was this lady from Texas was sitting behind me, and she said 'Why are all these people passing?'" Paton recalled. "I turned to her and said, 'Because they want Arizona to be the state that brings him over the top.'"
Then the woman asked Paton why.
"Because that's John McCain's state," he replied.
And Paton said it was a great moment to watch.
"That's really cool to watch (Arizona Secretary of State) Jan Brewer stand up there and say what she had to say, and that was what pushed them over was our state," Paton said.
"What's so cool about it is a year ago people were leaving him for dead, basically," Paton said. "I was one of the few guys that was publicly supporting him, even under all that.
"To see this day happen, it was really exciting, it was vindicating, I think, for a lot of his supporters."