In a rousing speech, John McCain promised to fight for change at home and for a strong America abroad.
McCain spoke passionately of his love of country and vowed to end the partisan rancor in Washington by reaching across party lines to get things done.
“You know, I've been called a maverick,” McCain said. “Someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it’s meant as a compliment and sometimes it’s not. What it really means is I understand who I work for.”
McCain had a bit of a rocky start as he was interrupted by anti-war demonstrators three times and seemingly struggled with his opening lines.
But when McCain went off script to calm the crowd that was shouting down the protesters, he found his bearings.
“Please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and the static,” McCain said. “What Americans want is to stop yelling at each other.”
McCain praised his partner, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“I’m very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country,” McCain said. “But I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd — change is coming.”
McCain alluded to his five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War throughout the speech. Those experiences, McCain said, strengthened his resolve as a lawmaker who will fight for the needs of everyday Americans.
“I don't mind a good fight,” McCain said. “For reasons known only to God, I've had quite a few tough ones in my life.”
McCain laid out his domestic policy points on school choice, judicial appointments, energy independence, taxes, and aid for workers displaced by the shifting economy.
“We believe in a government that unleashes the creativity and initiative of Americans,” McCain said. “Government that doesn't make your choices for you, but works to make sure you have more choices to make for yourself.”
He delivered the speech on the heels of remarks by Palin, whose address on Wednesday night energized the convention and brought in record television ratings for a Republican candidate.
Compared to Palin, who delivered blow after blow to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, McCain took fewer jabs at his opponent, though he hit him hard on the policy differences between the two and the promoted his greater level of experience in foreign affairs.
“I know 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,” McCain said. “I know how to secure the peace.”
But McCain also extended an olive branch to the Obama campaign and his supporters.
“Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us,” McCain said. “We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. We're dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights.”
McCain has performed best in the more intimate town hall-style settings and has struggled with his presentation in larger venues that require the oratorical flair Obama delivers with aplomb. So he altered the setting in the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning, adding a walkway that led out to the convention floor.