This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," August 30, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Coming up next on the "Journal Editorial Report," with the conventions behind us, the fall campaign officially begins. We'll take a look at where the race is going and the issues that could decide it.
And the Sarah Palin pick, one week later. What have we learned about John McCain's running mate? What does it say about his vision for the Republican Party?
Plus, a closer look at the media backlash against her. What's behind that?
And are Republicans playing the gender card?
The "Journal Editorial Report" begins right now.
Welcome to the Journal Editorial Report. I'm Paul Gigot.
Well, John McCain's speech Thursday night in St. Paul marked the official end of the convention season and the beginning of the fall campaign.
Here with a look at the issues and strategy that will frame the eight weeks ahead, Wall Street columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz, Washington columnist Kim Strassel and opinion journal.com columnist John Fund.
Dan, you and I were out in St. Paul. What did we learn about John McCain's strategy for the campaign?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR: I think those of us who watched the speech learned a couple of things. There are two big themes. I think they're really pretty good themes. The first one is reform, government reform. I think the country is in the mood for an historic period of reform. The other big theme was country before individual. This, McCain told us, was the lesson he learned in that prison camp.
These are both idea ideas but the morning after his speech, the American people woke up to learn the jobless rate was 6.1 percent. There is a lot of economic anxiety in the country. I think the challenge — I am not sure McCain did it in that speech — is to connect the two terrific grand themes to the details of the anxiety that people feel about their lives right now. He hasn't quite done that.
GIGOT: Dorothy, character, experience, biography — that's a big part of the theme McCain is going to run on. Is that a strength of his?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Absolutely. You saw that last night. I trembled as I watched him begin that long narrative about his prison camp. I thought oh, no, not again. We move forward and somehow, quite magically, they'd woven this narrative in the past as to where we have to go now as when he said, so, this is what we have to do.
This is what I learned. My country saved me. The inference is very clear. He would do this with the country.
GIGOT: Kim, Independents and Reagan Democrats were really a big part of the appeal last night. Did he do enough to separate himself from George Bush and appeal to those crossover votes? There aren't enough Republicans by themselves to elect John McCain.
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: I think he did. He paid dues to President Bush, but he talked a lot about stuff that Independents want to hear. The reform thing is a big one. They want to better government. They want to actually hear that someone is going to fix this corruption in Washington. He also talked about he had this plan for retraining people who were out of jobs. Some of the stuff, you could tell — there was a bit of a quiet, a hush in the actual stadium — that the conservative base weren't as pleased by these ideas. But he did make a pitch to that.
And having Sarah Palin as his running mate, who appeals to the conservative base, if frees him up a little bit more to talk about these things and to focus more on the audience.
GIGOT: John, he didn't even mention President Bush by name. He just had passing reference at the top saying, I want to thank the president for what he did after 9/11. He directly criticized the Republican Party, saying we're going to change it. They failed on spending. They failed on corruption. We are going to change that. It didn't go over that well in the hall, although it got some polite applause. Is that the kind of message that is going to echo across the country?
JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: It was a form of confessional. I think John McCain looked at how it worked for Nicolas Sarkozy in France last year. He was running as the head of a deeply unpopular party with an incumbent president whose popularity was below Bushes and he was able to seize the reform mantle. But part of that is saying, look, we made mistakes. We are not going to pretended we didn't. But we are going to move forward from that.