McCain Eases Convention Attendees' Skepticism

When a politician takes the convention stage, he or she is speaking to two very different audiences: the undecided viewers at home and the delegates in the arena. Thursday night, John McCain officially accepted the GOP's presidential nomination. On the convention floor, his acceptance speech was well received.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you're wondering just how energized Republican delegates are after that convention, listen to this report by NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA: Susan Black did not vote for McCain in Alabama's primary, but his speech sealed the deal for her last night.

Ms. SUSAN BLACK: I can really tell that he loves this country more than anything in the world. He loves it more than politics.

WELNA: Another convert was Dave Meyer(ph) of Woodbury, Minnesota. He said he went into the convention's final session a skeptic and left a McCain supporter.

Mr. DAVE MEYER: I came away tonight trusting John McCain; trusting him to be temperate; trusting him to be cautious, but also trusting him to do the right thing if we had to do something serious.

WELNA: Joshua Gross of Lexington, South Carolina was most impressed by McCain's account of his ordeal as a prisoner of war.

Mr. JOSHUA GROSS: I heard one phrase I had never heard before and that was I broke. It was the admission that, man, they broke him and yet he still persevered.

WELNA: For Tennessee Republican Carol Williams(ph), McCain's promise to put Democrats and independents in his administration sounded politically calibrated.

Ms. CAROL WILLIAMS: My personal opinion is he was trying to get some of the votes from undecideds, the people out there that are undecided. And if they are Democrats, maybe that will sway them over to his side.

WELNA: And for Greg Leo(ph) of Oregon, McCain hit a homerun last night.

Mr. GREG LEO: He's not the kind of politician that Americans have seen before. This is a guy who's willing to take some risks, do some things that are creative, bring in a broader group of people into the coalition. I mean, this guy is not George Bush; this is a guy that all Americans can get behind.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, St. Paul.

INSKEEP: If you missed McCain's speech last night, you did not miss McCain's speech, because it's still available at NPR.org, where you can also read analysis and blogs from Minnesota.

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McCain Promises 'Change Is Coming'

Audio Highlights

Read transcripts and hear audio from some of Thursday night's key speeches:

McCain and Palin stand on the stage with their families while balloons were dropped. i i

hide captionMcCain and Palin stand on the stage with their families while red, white and blue balloons were dropped after McCain gave his acceptance speech.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
McCain and Palin stand on the stage with their families while balloons were dropped.

McCain and Palin stand on the stage with their families while red, white and blue balloons were dropped after McCain gave his acceptance speech.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Cindy McCain tells the delegates that her husband, John McCain, is a "source of inspiration." i i

hide captionCindy McCain tells the delegates at the GOP convention that her husband, John McCain, is a "source of inspiration" who has "shown the value of self-sacrifice."

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Cindy McCain tells the delegates that her husband, John McCain, is a "source of inspiration."

Cindy McCain tells the delegates at the GOP convention that her husband, John McCain, is a "source of inspiration" who has "shown the value of self-sacrifice."

Alex Wong/Getty Images
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his speech was "for the troops." i i

hide captionSouth Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his speech was "for the troops." He criticized Obama for opposing the so-called troop surge in Iraq, saying that the strategy had succeeded in quelling the violence there.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his speech was "for the troops."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said his speech was "for the troops." He criticized Obama for opposing the so-called troop surge in Iraq, saying that the strategy had succeeded in quelling the violence there.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
McCain and Joe Lieberman i i

hide captionMcCain inspects the setup for Thursday's speech with former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who spoke on behalf of McCain earlier at the Republican National Convention.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
McCain and Joe Lieberman

McCain inspects the setup for Thursday's speech with former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who spoke on behalf of McCain earlier at the Republican National Convention.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

John McCain promised "change is coming" to Washington and accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night. The speech kicked off a fall campaign between two candidates who both pledge to upend the status quo in what may well remain a closely divided race until Election Day.

McCain's speech lacked the searing attacks against Barack Obama that characterized running mate Sarah Palin's address Wednesday night. Instead, McCain said he "wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement. "But," McCain added, "let there be no doubt, my friends: We're going to win this election."

Bipartisan Pledge

McCain sought to draw contrasts between himself and the Democratic presidential nominee, saying that "again and again," he has "worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed."

"That's how I will govern as president," he said. "I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Sen. Obama does not."

McCain praised Palin, who was formally nominated by acclamation Thursday night, saying, "I found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, D.C."

He added that he "can't wait" to introduce her to Washington. "And let me offer an advance warning to the old big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd," McCain said. "Change is coming."

Rising Above 'Constant Partisan Rancor'?

The attacks on Obama from Palin and other Republican speakers the previous night still buzzed through the convention Thursday and seemed at odds with McCain's call to rise above "the constant partisan rancor," which he said was "a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you."

Obama himself responded to the GOP attacks during a campaign stop Thursday. He said Republicans were avoiding addressing issues such as the economy that voters care about. "You're hearing an awful lot about me — most of which is not true — but you're not hearing a lot about you," Obama said.

Speaking in a convention hall plastered with McCain's slogan, "country first," the GOP nominee spoke of his devotion to America, referring to his own compelling story as a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years in Vietnam.

"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's," he said. "I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."

Stressing McCain's Independent Streak

McCain repeatedly referred to his reputation as a maverick. In an effort to reach out to Democrats and independents, he said he doesn't work for a party.

"I don't work for a special interest," McCain said. "I don't work for myself. I work for you. I've fought corruption, and it didn't matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans."

Referring to his support of campaign finance overhaul, McCain said he "fought to get million-dollar checks out of our elections." He said he has "fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes," "fought crooked deals in the Pentagon" and "fought tobacco companies and trial lawyers, drug companies and union bosses."

McCain's willingness to fight was a recurring theme throughout the speech. He said he "fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do." Praising Gen. David Petraeus and "the brave men and women he has the honor to command," McCain said the troop surge he advocated "succeeded and rescued us from a defeat that would have demoralized our military, risked a wider war and threatened the security of all Americans."

Countering Democratic charges that he was out of touch with people facing economic struggles, McCain said, "I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy, and it often seems your government hasn't even noticed. Government assistance for unemployed workers was designed for the economy of the 1950s. That's going to change on my watch.

"My opponent promises to bring back old jobs by wishing away the global economy. We're going to help workers who've lost a job that won't come back find a new one that won't go away."

He also pledged to embark on the most "ambitious national project in decades" to increase domestic energy production. McCain said the U.S. will drill new oil wells "offshore, and we'll drill them now." That elicited a chant of "Drill! Drill! Drill!" from the delegates.

Stressing his foreign policy credentials, McCain said he knows "how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. I know how to secure the peace."

An Intimate Affair

Early in his speech, McCain was interrupted by protesters, who were dragged from the arena as the crowd chanted "USA."

Preceding McCain to the podium was his wife, Cindy, who came onstage with her children. She called her husband the "best father you could ever imagine." She said, "It's going to take someone of unusual strength and character — someone exactly like my husband — to lead us through the reefs and currents that lie ahead. I know John. You can trust his hand at the wheel."

She added that she "always thought it's a good idea to have a woman's hand on the wheel as well," leading cheers for Alaska Gov. Palin.

In contrast to Obama's acceptance speech, delivered before some 84,000 people at Denver's football stadium, McCain's speech was a somewhat more intimate affair, and there were vacant seats inside the Xcel Energy Center. The speech was delayed until the end of the NFL's season-opening football game.

Along with the McCains, delegates heard from former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Ridge said he was speaking "about a warrior who has sometimes stood alone, and always shown the way, in fighting for the most vulnerable of our citizens, for the country he so dearly loves and for the founding principles we all so deeply cherish."

Ridge, who was considered to be on McCain's vice presidential short list, said, "Where some people see adversity, John McCain accepts a challenge. Where some people see a crisis, John McCain creates an opportunity. Where some people see defeat, John McCain insists on victory. John knows the purpose of elections is not merely to win. You run to win ... but you win to govern."

Graham said his speech was "for the troops." He criticized Obama for opposing the so-called troop surge in Iraq, saying that the strategy had succeeded in quelling the violence there.

For McCain, An Improbable Journey

For the 72-year-old McCain, who would be the oldest first-term president ever elected, accepting the nomination Thursday marked the latest step in an at times improbable journey.

It is his second run for the nation's highest office. In 2000, he lost the nomination to now-President George W. Bush, who was briefly referred to — but not by name — in his speech Thursday.

Last summer it seemed as if McCain's second run would end badly, with a campaign that was virtually broke. But Thursday night, McCain stood among a massive drop of red, white and blue balloons, and all that seemed far in the past.

Friday, McCain and Palin head out for campaign stops in the suburbs of Milwaukee and Detroit.

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