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'Change Is Coming,' McCain Says

Accepting GOP Nomination, Veteran Senator Calls For Putting Country's Interests Before Party Loyalty

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Sen. John McCain rallied supporters by emphasizing his experience and declaring that "it's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead" during his presidential nomination acceptance speech Thursday night.
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By Robert W Barnes
Friday, September 5, 2008; Page A01

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 4 -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona completed a long and often improbable journey to the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night, offering himself as an "imperfect servant" who will never surrender in his fight to change Washington and the country.

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In a speech to the Republican National Convention that was interrupted by boisterous applause and occasional protests, McCain said his record demonstrates a dedication to remaking Washington and an instinct for putting the people's interests over party loyalty. McCain has spent nearly 26 years in Congress and, at 72, would be the oldest president elected to a first term, but he presented himself as an agent of revival for a political system in disarray.

"Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd," he said in his speech. "Change is coming."

McCain has often taken pride in crossing swords with the party that on Thursday night finally accepted him as its standard-bearer. And he argued that those differences with his fellow Republicans were why a country whose citizens overwhelmingly believe that it is on the wrong track should trust him more than his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

"I don't work for a party," McCain said. "I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you. "

McCain's triumph, which ended in a billowing sea of red, white and blue balloons, capped an extraordinary two-week period in American politics and set the stage for a historic November election. The Democrats' nomination of an African American presidential candidate and McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate means that for the first time, one of the nation's top two offices will not be occupied by a white man.

McCain freely acknowledges that oratory is not his greatest talent, and his speech lacked the flourishes and drama of two others delivered during the conventions. Obama entranced a football-stadium crowd of more than 84,000 last week on an evening that climaxed in an eruption of fireworks, and Palin made an electrifying national debut here Wednesday that jolted the Republican base and may have overshadowed McCain's address.

His victory was born of years of tenacity, and when the time came to accept his prize, the senator responded with seriousness. At times, he seemed to be delivering more of a State of the Union address, and both the tone of the speech and the atmosphere of the hall were far different from the night before.

Palin had roused the delegates with her conservative rhetoric and mocking jabs at Obama. But McCain, on a newly built runway that put him symbolically among the people, adopted a more stately tone, his mischievous nature put aside and his wit holstered.

His outreach to Democrats and independents was designed to appeal beyond the convention hall, and his personal story of overcoming adversity at times was better suited to reflection than placard-waving.

With only 60 days to the election, both tickets will set out immediately for battleground states. McCain and Palin will campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico and Colorado. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), plan to split up to cover Pennsylvania, Indiana, Montana and Wisconsin.

McCain ran through a list of issues his campaign believes are important to voters this year: supporting school choice; retraining workers; expanding oil drilling and the use of alternative fuels; securing the peace.


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