Video: Wrapping up RNC, GOP ticket hits the road

updated 9/5/2008 3:06:54 PM ET 2008-09-05T19:06:54

Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama grappled for the mantle of change Friday as the newly minted presidential nominees reached out to states teeming with the independent voters vital to winning the White House.

McCain, taking his rival's central campaign theme, is arguing that his more than two decades of experience in Washington made him more likely to shake up the halls of power than the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term senator who is seeking to become the first black U.S. president.

McCain's nomination ended an eight-year quest for the Republican nomination, and marked the climax of a stunning comeback for a man who almost saw his prize elude him again last year.

The former Vietnam prisoner of war called for an end to the "constant partisan rancor" in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, looking to win over support of independents and moderate Democrats whose votes may be decisive in the November election and who may be reluctant to vote for a Republican after eight years of the unpopular President George W. Bush.

"It's over for the special interests'
McCain started campaigning as the official Republican nominee with Palin in Wisconsin , a state that is leaning Democratic. They were loudly cheered and applauded on the main street of Cedarburg, a Milwaukee suburb of about 11,000 people.

Palin said it was their intention to bring their campaign from the convention to "small town America," and they cast themselves as a team of determined reformers eager to challenge Washington's political establishment.

"John McCain doesn't run with the Washington herd," Palin said.

"It's over. It's over. It's over for the special interests," McCain promised. "We're going to start working for the people of this country."

McCain's campaign as a political outsider and rebel is complicated by the fact that McCain has served in the Senate for 22 years and solidly endorsed key elements of Bush's record, most notably the war in Iraq and hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts.

Economy and employment
Obama blasted McCain's acceptance speech during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania , calling it the final piece of an out-of-touch convention that focused on its nominee's biography instead of the struggles of the middle class.

Video: Biden: 'Silence was deafening' He pointed out that the the U.S. unemployment rate zoomed to a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August, as part of his strategy to tie McCain with Bush's economic stewardship and reach out to voters worried about their jobs — of which there are many in the battleground state that could be key to a presidential win.

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"If you watched the Republican National Convention over the last three days, you wouldn't know that we have the highest unemployment in five years because they didn't say a thing about what is going on with the middle class," Obama told workers at a specialty glass factory in Duryea.

"They spent a lot of time talking about John McCain's biography, which we all honor," the Illinois senator said. "They talked about me a lot, in less than respectful terms. What they didn't talk about is you and what you're seeing in your lives and what you're going through, or what your friends or your neighbors are going through."

Obama adviser David Axelrod tried to drive home the message that McCain was offering the policies of the Bush administration. "Last night Sen. McCain used the word 'change,' but the policies that he describes were very familiar," Axelrod said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "This isn't change, this is more of the same."

The Palin factor
In an e-mail to supporters, McCain denounced "Democratic operatives" whom he said "have stooped lower than anyone could have imagined."

The dig appeared to be a reference to Palin's announcement earlier this week that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter was five months' pregnant . Palin, Alaska's governor, said Internet rumors about her family had led her to reveal her daughter's pregnancy. Questions have also arisen about whether she has enough experience, and about her efforts as a small town mayor to gain millions of dollars in federal money — at odds with McCain's message of fiscal reform.

Video: Obama on funding Palin's nomination delighted the party's core Christian conservatives and boosted their previously tepid support for McCain, but appears to so far be having little impact in the polls.

According to an ABC News poll released Friday, 50 percent of respondents said they had a favorable impression of her, compared to 37 percent unfavorable — less than their 54 percent to 30 percent favorable view of Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

People say her choice makes them likelier to vote for the McCain ticket by a slender 25 percent to 19 percent who say less likely. Just 42 percent say Palin has the experience necessary to serve as president.

Promoting the maverick
The 72-year-old McCain, who would be the oldest first-term president in history, used his speech to present himself as a reformer willing to take on his fellow Republicans, including Bush — to whom he lost the presidential nomination in 2000.

McCain, who has not always won over conservatives with his independent mindset, chastised Republicans for falling prey to the temptations of power before voters deprived them of their majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate two years ago.

Video: Biden: 'The silence was deafening' "We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us," McCain said. "We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption."

McCain said in his speech that he has worked with Democrats before — often to the chagrin of Republicans — and, if elected, would continue to do so.

McCain has had to strike a difficult balance distancing himself from Bush's unpopular presidency, while not alienating the Republican base that remains loyal to the president.

Only once did McCain refer to Bush directly — though not by name — when he said he was "grateful to the president for leading us" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush, in a remarkable break with tradition, did not attend his party's convention. Instead, he delivered a brief speech Tuesday via satellite.

McCain's speechcame one week after Obama's acceptance address, which was seen by a television audience estimated at more than 40 million.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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