Palin to call for reform in convention speech

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin takes a Wedneday morning tour of the convention podium.

1 of 4 more photos » Sen. John McCain's running mate also will call for reform in Washington, Palin aide Tucker Eskew said.

"She will speak as a governor, a former mayor and someone with both hands on the steering wheel of America's energy economy," Eskew said.

"She will detail her record of shaking up the status quo in Alaska and standing up to entrenched interests to put the government back on the side of the people. She will make the case for Sen. McCain as the only candidate who has fought for America and the best man to protect us in dangerous times."

Palin is slated to speak during the 10 p.m. ET hour at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Watch more on Palin's speech »

Palin took a tour of the podium at the convention site Wednesday morning, hours before she'll return to give what will be the most scrutinized speech of her career.

She walked through the nearly empty hall and spent about 10 minutes checking out the podium where she'll give her prime-time acceptance speech.

Palin told reporters that she feels "great."

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"I'm excited to speak to Americans. This will be good. It's about reform," she said. Watch Palin tour the podium »

Top McCain staff, including campaign manager Rick Davis and senior adviser Nicolle Wallace, accompanied Palin on her tour.

Her address is sure to generate a lot of attention since McCain surprised many political observers last week with his selection of Palin over better-known contenders such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Revelations that Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, is pregnant also generated a flurry of media buzz as the GOP convention got under way this week.

On Tuesday night, Republican leaders strongly defended Palin, who has won praise from influential conservatives for her opposition to abortion and her pro-business record.

Actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson led the charge, berating "Washington pundits and media big shots" who have questioned her experience as a first-term governor of Alaska and former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

"She is from a small town, with small-town values, but that's not good enough for those folks who are attacking her and her family," he said to cheers.

"Let's be clear. ... The selection of Gov. Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. She is a courageous, successful reformer who is not afraid to take on the establishment." Watch Thompson defend Palin »

Thompson said Palin has the experience needed in Washington, calling her "a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee and now a Connecticut independent, also called Palin "a reformer."

"She's taken on the special interests and the political power brokers in Alaska and reached across party lines to get things done," Lieberman said. Watch more of Lieberman's speech »

And President Bush, speaking to the convention by video link from the White House, said McCain could govern in Washington with "an outstanding leader at his side."

Also on Wednesday night, McCain's former rivals for the GOP presidential nomination will take center stage at the convention.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will speak in prime time, party officials said.

Giuliani scrapped his run for the presidency in January. Romney, who was on the shortlist of potential running mates for McCain, gave up his bid for the White House in February. And Huckabee dropped out a month later.

All three men backed McCain after ending their campaigns.