Thursday night Sen. John McCain had an unenviable and quite daunting task: rally the Republican base around him—who had not fully embraced him in the past—and due to the wider audience sure to witness his candidacy acceptance speech, draw in those independents and disaffected Democrats he so desperately needs to win the presidency.
So, how did he do? Well, it seems that he may have finally captured the former but the latter remains to be seen. As for the speech itself, it was quite average, not far removed from his standard stump pronouncements, although it was clearly salvaged by the very personal touch he gave the telling of his ordeal as a POW. Had he and his surrogates not been gracelessly milking this point it in recent days it may have been a tad more resonant, but it was a highpoint, nonetheless.
A few other things stood out: his mention of Gov. Sarah Palin garnered the loudest applause of the speech, until the spirited crescendo of the finale; his attacks on Sen. Barack Obama were slightly muted—Palin pretty much covered that part of the agenda the previous night; and while he did praise them, that he failed to mention both the former and current president Bush by name was, of course, a tactical move designed to distance himself from the last 8 years.
McCain made emphasis on this last point by also pointing the finger at his fellow Republicans—and the Democrats for good measure—for the failures of the last 8 years, and promising as President to be a bi-partisan agent of change that would restore the party’s good name. This bit self-recrimination did not go over very well with the assembled crowd, who did not react at all to what may have been conceived as an applause line. More importantly, it is a hollow promise from a man who is confirmed as having supported the current administration in over 90% of its decisions, but one that may resonate with those more inclined to be endeared by the man and his story than close analysis of his record.