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GOP convention speakers energize Tri-State delegates

September 05, 2008|By DON AINES

Among the more than 2,000 GOP delegates on the floor of the Excel Center for the 2008 Republican National Convention at St. Paul, Minn., Thursday night were a pair of convention rookies -- Maryland state Del. Christopher Shank and Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioner Bob Thomas.

Thomas was still pumped up Thursday afternoon about the speeches delivered the night before by former Republican presidential candidates leading into the speech by vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Mitt Romney was great, but then came Mike Huckabee and he was better," said Thomas, whom some local residents said they spotted on television wearing a red McCain baseball cap. "And then came Rudy Giuliani and that was a grand slam."

Those speeches left Thomas wondering if Palin, unknown to much of the nation a week earlier, could deliver. He said he was not disappointed.

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"She really hit the nail right on the head," he said. That was particularly the case when Palin, whose infant son has Down Syndrome, spoke about children with special needs, he said.

"The thing that impressed me the most, being the father of a physically-challenged child, was when she spoke about families with children with disabilities having a representative in Washington," said Thomas, whose daughter, Kelly, has cerebral palsy.

Shank, who represents Washington County and is minority whip, praised Palin's speech.

"I thought it was an electrifying experience," Shank said. She displayed "an authenticity I have never seen" in a politician making a national debut."

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