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McCain vows to shake up Washington

Sen. John McCain practices the speech he planned to deliver later Thursday accepting the Republican nomination for president. His speech kicked off the fall campaign against Democrat Barack Obama. To his right is his wife, Cindy.

ST. PAUL -- Prisoner of war-turned-presidential candidate John McCain promises to change Washington by getting along with the opposition, reforming government and, in general, putting the country first.

The maverick politician showed both his quiet and his tough sides Thursday night in accepting the Republican presidential nomination.

"I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement," he said of Democratic candidate Barack Obama. "But let there be no doubt, my friends, we're going to win this election. And after we've won, we're going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace."

Several times early in his speech, people in the balcony of St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center shouted opposition to McCain, each time rebutted by 20,000 Republicans with shouts of "U.S.A."

"Americans want us to stop yelling at each other," McCain said to quell the disturbances.

McCain promised to smooth over differences in Washington, much like he worked to open American relations with Vietnam, which held him prisoner of war for more than five years.

"The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom," he said. "It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you."

Republican delegates at the Xcel Energy Center enthusiastically greeted McCain, applauding several minutes before allowing him to begin his speech. He spoke from a podium at the end of a runway jutting into the crowded arena floor.

He promised to work with Democrats, but also criticized Obama.

"I have that record and the scars to prove it," McCain said. "Sen. Obama does not."

He also tried to emphasize his maverick image: "I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I work for you."

McCain's speech concluded a four-day Republican National Convention that started slowly when the candidate asked GOP leaders to tone down activities in light of Hurricane Gustav. However, the convention returned to partisan attacks and strong rhetoric Wednesday night when McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, fired up Republicans.

Before McCain got up to talk, the convention loudly voted to officially make Palin its vice presidential candidate.

As was the case the first three days of the convention, much of the attention was focused on Palin, the first female GOP vice presidential candidate.

"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."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a national McCain campaign co-chairman, emphasized McCain's character during a brief speech.

"Barack Obama gives a good speech," Pawlenty said. "But the best sermons aren't preached, they're lived.

"John McCain's whole life is a testimony to service, duty, courage and common sense. John McCain has walked the walk, and he has always put our country first."

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.