ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a speech short on partisan sniping and long on promises of what his presidency will be like, John McCain didn’t wow or woo his fellow Republicans so much as inspire them.
At times the packed convention center seemed to hunger for the kind of red meat that speakers on previous nights threw them. But aside from a handful of swipes at his opponent Barack Obama, McCain stuck to drawing differences by contrasting his plans against Obama’s.
McCain said he would lower taxes, open more markets and make health care accessible to more Americans in a responsible way while Obama would do the opposite.
One promise he made — “to stop sending billions of follars to countries that don’t like us very much” — drew a standing ovation.
McCain drew the crowd to its feet again with a broad promise to “shake up Washington” with his veep, Sarah Palin.
He began his speech humbly thanking everyone for the nomination, which he graciously accepted. He even paid tribute to George Bush, saying he’s grateful for his leadership.
He was the first speaker at the convention to directly address undecideds and independents, thanking them for considering him and promising to earn their vote.
McCain also saluted Obama as a worthy opponent.
It was a steady, measured speech, not a rouser until the end, when he implored everyone to “stand up and fight for America.” The conventioneers all stood and cheered and whooped.
A brief disruption by Code Pinkers calling for an end to the war delayed proceedings, but security hustled the two hecklers out.
Earlier in the evening, before primetime, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist touted U.S. humanitarian aid to various parts of the world, and how McCain understands the value of such aid as a weapon against conditions that breed terrorist sympathies.
McCain would in fact lead an effort to reduce poverty, Frist said.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) whipped the crowd into a cheering call-and-response of “Yes, we can!” as he asked conventioneers if the GOP could accomplish goals such as “protecting the lives of the unborn.”
Irony occasionaly appeared, as when the arena sound system blared the pop song “Footloose,” the title soundtrack of a movie in which a conservative small town is taught a lesson by a liberal free spirit.
But instead of building to a climax, any sense of drama rose and fell until McCain finally appeared.
Sen. Lyndsay Graham (R-SC) brought the crowd back to its feet with praise for the “surge” in Iraq and how “it has worked.”
Graham bashed Obama “and his pals at MoveOn.org” for not acknowledging “the success of the surge.” He drew cheers and applause the more he ridiculed Obama and other congressional Democrats for nearly “losing” the war by opposing the “surge.”
Graham also turned a line of Obama’s against him. When receiving the Dem nom, Obama said he didn’t think McCain didn’t care about everyday people; “I just don’t think he gets it.”
Graham said he didn’t think Obama doesn’t care about the war and the surge; “I just don’t think he gets it.”
A video repeated “maverick” as a descriptor for McCain and then did the same for his veep pick Sarah Palin.
Tom Ridge, former head of the Homeland Security Dept., drew only mild applause praising McCain. He got cheers whenever he directly or indirectly attacked Obama.
Cindy McCain won the attention of most of the crowd, as those milling about took their seats finally. She talked of her husband’s devotion to family as well as country. She was joined onstage by their children and those of McCain’s first marriage.
But she got her biggest cheer when she asked, “So how about that Sarah Palin?”
Cindy McCain received a standing ovation after a largely gentle-toned speech, which she ended by saying she “humbly” presents her husband to accept the GOP nomination.
Outside the Xcel Energy Center, another night of protest marches ended in police firing smoke bombs and percussion grenades. Among an estimated 200 people arrested was Daily Variety editor Ted Johnson, who was covering one of the marches.