ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Sarah Palin was nowhere to be seen at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, but was clearly the star of the show.
Everyone was talking Palin, from prime time speakers to protesters.
"She’s my hero," gushed Marianna Gamache, a delegate from Vermont. "If you were to put together a computer to make the perfect woman, she fits it for me."
Palin love inside the convention hall contrasted with skepticism from TV talk show hosts and guests outside, who argued all day long about if she’s qualified to be vice president, how little John McCain vetted her, and what affect her teenage daughter’s pregnancy will have on the race.
"We’re talking more about her than we’re talking about John McCain!" said conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, broadcasting from an MSNBC stage set up in a park outside the convention hall, where vendors sold McCain-Palin buttons.
Not far away, conservative luminaries Phyllis Schafly and radio host Laura Ingraham headlined a pro-life event in Palin’s honor at a St. Paul hotel.
The Alaska governor herself wasn’t there but protesters showed up — one of them running onto the stage with a sign while Schlafly spoke.
Schlafly took the sign and tore it in half before the audience could see it.
A couple protestors outside held signs saying "Sarah Palin: Not Women’s Choice." A street theater protestor who called herself "Dolly Daily Bombings," declared with gleeful sarcasm Palin was her kind of lady.
"She can handle an automatic weapon and when she shoots those polar bears it makes my heart go boom boom boom," she said.
Another protester shouted "Has anybody head any good scandals about Sarah Palin today?"
Inside the hotel, Ingraham said bloggers and newspapers are attacking Palin because she’s not a typical, big money, elitist politician.
"I have no doubt we will continue to see vicious, unfair and horrible attacks against Sarah Palin," Ingraham said.
"...TAKEN ON THE SPECIAL INTERESTS"
Inside the convention hall, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson praised Palin’s "small-town values" and kept up the media-blaming theme in his speech at the convention Tuesday.
"The selection of Gov. Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic," he said, to ardent applause from the delegates.
Connecticut independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential pick eight years ago, also spoke Tuesday night in favor of the McCain-Palin ticket.
"Gov. Sarah Palin, like John McCain, is a reformer who has taken on the special interests and reached across party lines. She is a leader we can count on to help John shake up Washington," Lieberman said.
Palin was nowhere near all the hoopla.
She stayed out of sight, preparing for the biggest speech of her life tonight. Millions of eyes will be on her as she addresses the convention and accept the Republican Party’s nomination for vice president. Since so few people outside of Alaska know much about Palin, talk of the convention is the anticipation about Palin’s speech.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Palin’s speech would be a chance for her to "have a conversation with the American public."
"A vice-presidential nominee’s speech is always very important. That’s dictated by the fact that so many more people tune in to see those speeches," Davis said. "Other than the debates, when she doesn’t have a clear shot, there’s not anything more compelling."
Palin did take a break from speech preparation Tuesday to meet with first lady Laura Bush and McCain’s wife, Cindy. Journalists were not allowed.
Members of the news media settled for interviewing Alaska delegates, who have become media superstars at this convention. Reporters from around the world formed lines in front of each one of the Alaska delegates who was on the convention floor Tuesday afternoon — waiting their turns to interview Alaskans about Palin.
"It’s ridiculous," said Chris Nelson, who is leading the Alaska delegation.
Nelson said it’s a far different experience than the convention four years ago in New York.
"We sat in the back and nobody really paid any attention to us," he said.
Alaska delegates said they’d briefly spoken about how to handle the media, but denied a network television report they had four hours of media training.
Alaska delegates were wearing plastic hard hats that said "Drill Here. Pay Less." They sported reflective construction vests with photos of caribou grazing at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the back.
The Alaska delegates said they were enthusiastically behind Palin, even if they may have had policy differences with her in the past.
One of the Alaska delegates is Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chair who Palin accused of ethics transgressions, helping gain her the reformist reputation that attracted McCain. McCain has said approvingly that Palin "fought party bosses."
Ruedrich responded in a Tuesday interview that the party has worked to support Palin, as it has all Republican candidates who make it past the primary.
"We probably need to spend a little more time making people understand," Ruedrich said.
(David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers and McClatchy intern Lindsey Lanzendorfer contributed to this story.)