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McCain Tells Convention, Nation He'll Bring Change

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - John McCain, a POW turned political
rebel, vowed Thursday night to vanquish the "constant partisan
rancor" that grips Washington as he launched his fall campaign for
the White House. "Change is coming," he promised the roaring
Republican National Convention and a prime-time television
audience.
To repeated cheers from his delegates, McCain criticized fellow
Republicans as well as Democratic rival Barack Obama as he reached
out to independents and disaffected Democrats.
"We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington
change us," he said of the Republicans who controlled Congress for
most of the past 15 years.
As for Obama, he said, "I will keep taxes low and cut them
where I can. My opponent will raise them. I will cut government
spending. He will increase it."
Before McCain's speech, the climax of the final night of the
party convention, delegates awarded the vice presidential
nomination to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the first female ticketmate
in Republican history.
"She stands up for what's right and she doesn't let anyone tell
her to sit down," McCain said of the woman who has faced intense
scrutiny in the week since she was picked.
"And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending,
do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd: Change is
coming," McCain declared.
He and Palin were departing their convention city immediately
after the Arizona senator's acceptance speech, bound for Wisconsin
and an early start on the final weeks of the White House campaign.
McCain, at 72 bidding to become the oldest first-term president,
drew a roar from the convention crowd when he walked out onto the
stage lighted by a single spotlight. He was introduced by a video
that dwelt heavily on his time spent as a prisoner of war in
Vietnam and as a member of Congress, hailed for a "faithful
unyielding love for America, country first."
"USA, USA, USA," chanted the crowd in the hall.
McCain faced a delicate assignment as he formally accepted his
party's presidential nomination: presenting his credentials as a
reformer willing to take on his own party and stressing his
independence from an unpopular President Bush - all without
breaking faith with his Republican base.
He set about it methodically.
"After we've won, we're going to reach out our hand to any
willing patriot, make this government start working for you
again," he said, and he pledged to invite Democrats and
independents to serve in his administration.
He mentioned President Bush only in passing, as the leader who
led the country through the days after the terror attacks on Sept.
11, 2001.
And there was plenty for conservative Republicans to cheer -
from his pledge to free the country from the grip of its dependence
on foreign oil, to a vow to have schools answer to parents and
students rather than "unions and entrenched bureaucrats."
A man who has clashed repeatedly with Republicans in Congress,
he said proudly, "I've been called a maverick. Sometimes it's
meant as a compliment and sometimes it's not. What it really means
is I understand who I work for.
"I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest.
I don't work for myself. I work for you."
Thousands of red, white and blue balloons nestled in netting
above the convention floor, to be released on cue for the
traditional celebratory convention finale.
Given McCain's political mission, it was left to other
Republicans to deliver much of the criticism aimed at Obama.
In the race for the White House, "It's not about building a
record, it's about having one," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom
Ridge. "It's not about talking pretty, it's about talking
straight."
McCain invoked the five years he spent in a North Vietnamese
prison. "I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in
someone else's," he said. "I was never the same again. I wasn't
my own man anymore. I was my country's."
The last night of the McCain-Palin convention also marked the
end of an intensive stretch of politics with the potential to
reshape the race for the White House. Democrats held their own
convention last week in Denver, nominating Delaware Sen. Joseph
Biden as running mate for Obama, whose own acceptance speech drew
an estimated 84,000 partisans to an outdoor football stadium.
The polls indicate a close race between McCain and Obama, at 47
a generation younger than his Republican opponent, with the outcome
likely to be decided in scattered swing states in the industrial
Midwest and the Southwest.
Ahead lie the traditional major checkpoints - presidential and
vice presidential debates, millions of dollars in ads - but also
the unscripted, spontaneous moments that can take on outsized
importance in the race to pick a president.
Before he spoke Thursday night, Cindy McCain recommended her
husband to the crowd - and the nation. "If Americans want straight
talk and the plain truth they should take a good close look at John
McCain, a man tested and true who's never wavered in his devotion
to our country," she said. She called him "a man who's served in
Washington without ever becoming a Washington insider."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also had a speaking slot, and he
used it to criticize McCain's rival. He said Obama and the liberal
group MoveOn.org were the only ones who didn't realize that Bush's
decision to deploy additional troops to Iraq last year had
succeeded.
Ridge's turn at the podium came after he had been mentioned
prominently in speculation about a running mate.
That was an honor that went unexpectedly to Palin, the first
female vice presidential candidate in party history, a 44-year-old
Alaska governor virtually unknown nationally a week ago.
In the days since, she has faced a storm of scrutiny, some of it
relating to her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and her time as
governor, but most involving her 17-year-old unmarried daughter who
is pregnant.
For the most part, McCain's aides have kept Palin out of public
sight while vociferously defending her readiness to become
president. She emerged Wednesday night during prime time to deliver
a smiling, sarcastic attack on Obama that generated roars of
approval - and acceptance - from the delegates.
She followed up in the hours before McCain's convention
appearance with a meeting with Republican governors and a
fundraising appeal that blamed Democrats for spreading
"misinformation and flat-out lies" about her family and her.
Even so, there were fresh questions about her readiness to sit
one chair away from the Oval Office.
McCain has cited her authority over the Alaska National Guard as
one example. But in a memo last spring, Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig
Campbell warned that "missions are at risk" in the state's units
because of a personnel shortage. The lack of qualified airmen,
Campbell said, "has reached a crisis level."
In an interview on Wednesday with The Associated Press, Campbell
said the situation has improved since then, but not enough to
eliminate his concern that shortages will result in the burnout of
troops.
McCain won the presidential nomination late Wednesday night in
an anticlimactic vote that followed a campaign lasting most of a
decade. He first ran for the White House in 2000, but lost the
Republican nomination to Bush in a bruising struggle. He began the
current campaign the Republican front-runner, but his chances
seemed to collapse last winter when opposition to the Iraq war rose
among independents and conservatives grew upset over his backing
for legislation to give illegal immigrants a path toward
citizenship.
In one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent times, he
recovered to win the New Hampshire primary in early January, then
wrapped up the nomination on Feb. 5 with big-state primary
victories on Super Tuesday.
Obama, campaigning in swing-state Pennsylvania on Thursday, said
he wasn't surprised at Palin's criticism of him, and said Democrats
intended to focus on her record.
"I think she's got a compelling story, but I assume she wants
to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated," he said.
"I've been through this 19 months, she's been through it - what -
four days so far?"
Obama's campaign announced it had raised roughly $10 million
from more than 130,000 donors since Palin delivered her speech
Wednesday night.
Outside the hall, police on horseback thwarted plans by anti-war
demonstrators to march on the convention hall.
protesters calling for an end to the Iraq war vowed to march as
McCain spoke.
More than 100 demonstrators were arrested earlier in the day
after a concert by the rock group Rage Against the Machine.
Police arrested more than 250 demonstrators on the convention's
first day on Monday, but the streets have been relatively quiet
since.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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