John McCain and Sarah Palin on Friday cast the new Republican presidential ticket as a team of determined reformers eager to challenge Washington's political establishment.
"John McCain doesn't run with the Washington herd," said Palin, the 44-year-old Alaska governor and surprise pick as McCain's running mate.
"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."
Twelve hours after leaving the Republican convention in Minnesota, McCain and Palin were cheered and applauded by a crowd of 1,000 or more who packed the street in front of the ice cream and chocolate store that was the backdrop for their appearance.
"Isn't this the most marvelous running mate in the history of this nation?" McCain asked at a main street rally in Cedarburg, a town of about 11,000. The community, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee in Ozaukee County, is a traditional Republican enclave within Democratic-leaning Wisconsin.
Many people in the audience held digital cameras and video cameras above their heads to get a shot as McCain's "Straight Talk Express" bus rolled into town. Palin said it was their intention to bring their campaign directly from the convention to "small-town America" like the small town in Alaska where she once was mayor.
The Republican team plans to campaign together in hotly contested states — Wisconsin and Michigan on Friday, Colorado and New Mexico on Saturday — and then go their separate ways. Palin is expected to return to Alaska just briefly and then go back to the campaign trail, perhaps on Monday.
"Change is coming, change is coming," McCain promised the audience, borrowing the same theme that Democrat Barack Obama has made the centerpiece of his run for the White House.
McCain's campaign as a political outsider and rebel is complicated by the fact that he has served in the Senate for 22 years and solidly endorsed key elements of President Bush's record, most notably the war in Iraq and hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. McCain originally opposed the tax cuts but changed his mind as he sought the GOP presidential nomination.
McCain took note of gloomy economic news from Washington: The government reported that the nation's unemployment rate soared to a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August as employers slashed 84,000 jobs.
"Rough times all over America," he said.
After their speeches, Palin and McCain ducked into The Chocolate Factory to greet customers and sign autographs. After Palin met a few people, she turned to the ice cream counter and said: "I've got to get the moose tracks, please. Moose tracks, you know, near and dear to my heart. I can't go wrong with it." She was handed a waffle cone with a giant scoop.
Then McCain and his wife came up to order. The senator asked for a recommendation and then decided on watermelon sorbet. Cindy McCain ordered a brownie.
The woman behind the cash register, Becky Luft, 20, was flush with excitement and her friend described her as McCain's No. 1 fan. McCain came around the counter to pose for a picture with her.
People in the restaurant congratulated Palin on her nomination, many saying they liked her speech.
"I am very impressed with you," said Doreen Wirth, a Republican and artist from Cedarburg.