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McCain vows to fight to change US



By Jonathan Beale
BBC News, St Paul

McCain and running mate Sarah Palin at Republican convention in St Paul on 4 September 2008
Questions have swirled all week about John McCain's running mate

Two storms threatened to blow the Republican National Convention off course this week.

The first, Hurricane Gustav, delayed the start of proceedings, but did not cause the chaos that many had feared.

The second storm was over Senator John McCain's choice of running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The impact of this would be much harder to predict.

The questions started last Friday, but only reached a crescendo this week.

Who was Mrs Palin? How and why was she chosen? What qualified her to be his running mate and where exactly was Wasilla, Alaska?

The smiling family - Trig, Track, Bristol, Piper and Willow - turned out to be not quite so perfect.

'Scented blood'

Mrs Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol was pregnant. Had the McCain campaign done its homework, or was this a rather desperate shot in the dark?

Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol holds brother Trig at Republican convention in St Paul on 4 September 2008
The media found out Sarah Palin's teenage daughter was pregnant

Some in the media pack scented blood.

The hunt was on when Mrs Palin appeared to go to ground for the first few days of the convention. It all seemed to be heading for disaster.

Yet Mrs Palin turned out to be the darling of the convention.

Maybe in part because of the media's attacks. But mostly because of that speech that fired up the party faithful.

She used her humble origins, humour and a stiletto heel to turn the attack on the media and the Democrats.

'Sudden stardom'

Rarely has such a political unknown shot to such sudden stardom - 37 million Americans watched her speech.

Just a few million fewer than had watched Barack Obama in Denver.

The reality is that there are still questions about Mrs Palin.

Sarah Palin at Republican convention in St Paul on 4 September 2008
Sarah Palin became an instant star at the convention

And there will be greater tests ahead. But she has re-energised the Republican base and rallied support around Mr McCain.

It is worth remembering that many conservatives still had strong reservations about the Vietnam veteran before Mrs Palin was chosen.

St Paul, Minnesota, may have been their road to Damascus.

But John McCain still had plenty to prove.

'No McSame'

First he needed to distance himself from an unpopular President Bush and to blunt the Democratic Party attacks that a McCain administration would be more of the McSame.

The fact that Mr Bush did not appear in person at the convention probably helped.

As did the focus on Mrs Palin.

McCain addresses crowd at Republican convention in St Paul on 4 September 2008
Mr McCain's biggest theme was regaining the American people's trust

Mr McCain also had to reach out beyond the Republican base.

The attacks on his rival, delivered by his surrogates, were effective.

But there had been precious little detail in terms of policy. How would a McCain administration differ from eight years of Bush?

In the end Mr McCain's speech ticked most of the boxes, without setting the world alight.

He has never been the most inspirational of speakers - and it was always going to be hard to compete with the oratory of Barack Obama.

But he filled in some of the details on economic policy.

His biggest theme: To regain the trust of the American people. In truth the speech did not contain any real surprises.

But then Mr McCain - the self-proclaimed maverick - had already done that in the selection of his running mate. A move that has already shaken up this race.




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