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McCain to kick off final drive for presidency

By Glen Johnson
Associated Press Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) ó Republican presidential nominee John McCain begins his final drive for the White House with a jump-start from running mate Sarah Palin that cast the 72-year-old senator as the obvious choice for a nation hungry for change.
McCain was preparing a prime-time acceptance speech Thursday to the Republican National Convention. He was expected to review his career in public service ó first as a Naval Academy midshipman and wartime pilot and then as a 26-year veteran of Congress ó while drawing stark policy differences with Democratic opponent Barack Obama.
Democratic critics have questioned Palinís political experience as a small-town mayor and her less than two years as Alaskaís governor, but she turned the tables Wednesday night by offering a searing, sometimes sarcastic attack on the opposing ticket.
Obamaís own running mate, Joe Biden, complimented Palin on Thursday for delivering an impressive speech with skill but said that issues important to Americans were missing from her remarks.
ěI didnít hear the phrase ímiddle classí mentioned, I didnít hear a word about health care. I didnít hear a single word about what weíre going to do about the housing crisis, college education, all the things that the middle class is being burdened by now,î Biden told CBSí ěThe Early Show.î
ěThere was a deafening silence about the hole that the Republicans have dug us into and any specific answers as to how the McCain-Palin ticket is going to get us out of that hole,î Biden said.
McCainís speech was expected to provide the climax to the four-day convention at the Xcel Energy Center. His wife, Cindy, admitted that she was nervous about addressing delegates herself.
ěIíd like people to know what makes me work and what makes me tick and who I am, what Iím all about and where I come from,î Cindy McCain told ABCís ěGood Morning Americaî in an interview taped for broadcast Thursday. ěI have an interesting story to tell as well in that it combines the two of us and makes us a couple and what we will represent.î
Palin joined other Republican speakers Wednesday night in praising McCain as a man of character, a former Vietnam prisoner of war who had spent his early career in the military and had sought to change the ways of politics in Washington.
ěIn politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change,î said Palin, toying with the central theme in Obamaís campaign.
Palinís 19-year-old son, Track, ships out for Iraq next week with his Army unit. The governor was unflinching as she contrasted McCainís military record with a lack of armed service by Obama and Biden.
ěThere is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you in places where winning means survival and defeat means death ó and that man is John McCain,î she said.
Delegates witnessing Palinís political coming-out party had high hopes for her candidacy, especially after the 44-year-old faced the challenge of matching the star power of Obama. The 47-year-old Illinois senator accepted his nomination last week before a stadium crowd of 84,000 people in Denver.
ěFor too many times, weíve brought knives to gun fights,î said Chuck Gast, a delegate from Maryland.
When asked if Palin, a hunter, brought a gun to the fight, Gast said, ěYes, I think she brings a big gun ó like a moose gun.î
Alaska delegate Ralph Seekins, who knows Palin personally, said she relished her prime-time audience.
ěSheís an attractive lady and thatís disarming to a lot of people,î he said. ěAt the same time, sheís a very capable lady. We respect her in Alaska and we think as the rest of the country and the rest of the world gets to know her, theyíll be the same.î
In a nod toward party unity, McCain also gave speaking roles to three of his former political rivals.
The highest honor was accorded former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who used a taunting, rollicking address to accuse Obama and the Democrats of not learning the lessons of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Giuliani said McCain ěwill keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad.î
Alluding to last weekís Democratic National Convention, he added: ěOf great concern to me, during those same four days in Denver, they rarely mentioned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They are in a state of denial about the biggest threat that faces this country. And if you deny it and you donít deal with it, you canít face it.î
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama ěducked and dodgedî when asked recently about the threat of Islamic terrorism. ěJohn McCain hit the nail on the head,î said Romney. ěRadical violent Islam is evil, and he will defeat it.î
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, known for his wit and humor on the trail, rebuffed those who questioned Palinís experience.
ěI want to tell you folks something,î said Huckabee. ěShe got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States.î
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On the Net:
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php

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