ST. PAUL (Reuters) - Republican John McCain promised Americans on Thursday that “change is coming” to Washington if he is elected president on November 4 and he pledged to overcome partisan rancor by working with Democrats.
McCain’s campaign released excerpts of his speech accepting his party’s nomination for president. He was to deliver the speech at about 10:30 p.m. EDT.
In a year in which Americans are thirsting for change, McCain sought to co-opt the message of change offered by his Democratic opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
“Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd: change is coming,” McCain said.
McCain was trying to reclaim his image as a Republican maverick in the speech, as Democrats charge he is little different from unpopular President George W. Bush.
The Arizona senator was taking the podium at the Xcel Energy Center in the Minnesota state capital a day after his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, electrified Republicans with a fiery speech criticizing Democratic opponents Obama and Joe Biden.
McCain bemoaned “the constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving” America’s problems and said he has a record of reaching across the party aisle, unlike Obama.
“Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not,” he said.
McCain also talked about his defining experience, the 5 1/2 years he spent as a Vietnam prisoner of war, a period in which he said he realized how special his own country was.
“I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s,” he said.
For McCain, 72, it is the pinnacle of his career. Long considered by many a maverick in his party and distrusted by some in the conservative base, he will receive the long-sought nomination to be his party’s candidate for the White House.
He had a tough act to follow.
More than 37 million viewers tuned in to watch the speech by political newcomer Palin, just shy of the record set last Friday by Obama, whose nomination acceptance address in Denver was seen by 38.4 million, Nielsen Media Research reported.
Obama, speaking to reporters, shot back at Palin for saying that being mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska, was a little like Obama’s service as a community organizer in Chicago, except that “you have actual responsibilities” as mayor.
“They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?” Obama said.
“I think maybe that’s the problem. That’s part of why they’re out of touch and they don’t get it because they haven’t spent much time working on behalf of those folks,” he told reporters in York, Pennsylvania.
Palin was at it again at a luncheon of U.S. Republican state governors, saying governors have to make decisions and “we don’t have a ‘present’ button as governor.”
That was a knock on Obama’s history of voting “present” instead of yes or no on many pieces of legislation in the U.S. Senate.
A CBS News poll conducted from Monday through Wednesday of this week had the race tied at 42 percent between Obama and McCain. A Gallup Daily tracking poll had Obama up 49 percent to 43 percent for McCain.
Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Jeff Mason and Charles Abbott, editing by Jackie Frank