ST PAUL, Minnesota (AFP) — White House candidate John McCain will Thursday crown an unlikely political comeback when he formally accepts the Republican presidential nomination after a remarkable American journey.
The Arizona senator, 72, will take center stage on the final day of the Republican National Convention, a week after his rival Barack Obama took up the Democratic banner at a spectacular convention finale in Denver.
McCain will grab the spotlight a day after his vice presidential pick Sarah Palin emerged from a political maelstrom to capture the heart of fellow Republicans in an address that electrified the party faithful.
McCain's keynote speech will be a sweet moment for the former Vietnam war prisoner, after his campaign almost slumped into bankruptcy last year and lost a bitter 2000 presidential run to President George W. Bush.
The Republican Party convention, reverberating Wednesday with energy after Palin's prime time speech, formally nominated McCain as its candidate for the November 4 election after a fabled roll-call of the states.
Palin was given a standing ovation for a passionate, hard-nosed speech rocked the convention hall, and a beaming McCain bounded onto the stage to embrace his controversial running mate.
"Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?" McCain asked, following days of political and personal revelations about Palin, the first-ever woman on a Republican ticket.
Palin's family joined her on stage, including pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol, boyfriend Levi Johnston and the Alaska governor's four-month-old Down syndrome son Trig.
Obama's campaign dismissed the convention as an exercise in mud-slinging without any program to fix the troubled US economy.
"We still haven't gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies," spokesman David Plouffe said in an e-mail.
In a speech which mixed homespun small town values and searing political rhetoric, Palin, who will be formally anointed vice presidential nominee on Thursday, styled herself as a scourge of the Washington elite.
The Alaska governor lauded the character of McCain, and contrasted it to what she described as the "dramatic speeches before devoted followers" of Obama.
"For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words, for a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds," said Palin.
The 44-year-old mother of five and staunch opponent of abortion also noted she had served as a smalltown mayor in her native Alaska, saying in another swipe at Obama that the job was like being a community organizer "except that you have actual responsibilities."
Obama started in politics as a community organizer in Chicago after law school.
"What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?" Palin asked in another mocking slight towards Obama.
"The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world."
The Obama campaign struck back in a strongly worded statement, saying that though Palin's speech was well delivered, it was the work of President "George Bush's speechwriter."
Spokesman Bill Burton said the speech "sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years."
"If Governor Palin and John McCain want to define change' as voting with George Bush ninety percent of the time, that's their choice, but we don't think the American people are ready to take a ten percent chance on change."
Since she was picked on Friday, Palin has disclosed that Bristol was pregnant, faced claims she abused her power as governor and mayor of a small town, and sought federal cash for programs opposed by McCain.
Palin painted herself as maverick in McCain's image, primed to go to Washington to launch a wave of reform.
"I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment and I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.
"But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion -- I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."
Democrats have questioned whether Palin has enough experience to serve a "heartbeat" from the presidency, but she defended her credentials, saying she was steeped in executive leadership experience.
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