Review: McCain can't match week's best speeches

NEW YORK (AP) -- After back-to-back convention weeks with some soaring oratory and flawless television productions, John McCain's crowning night had neither.

His acceptance speech Thursday was marred by some demonstrations, a technical glitch and a plodding delivery. McCain seemed overshadowed by the woman he picked to be his vice president, Sarah Palin, who earned rave reviews and drew an astonishing 40 million viewers to her debut on the national stage the night before.

Fortunately for McCain, none of that is what elections are all about. The Republican standard-bearer portrayed himself as a fighter, and he brought some fight to a party that had seemed unsure of its footing.

"Tonight I think we have a tribute to tenacity," said CNN's John King.

A handful of protesters in the convention hall briefly disrupted McCain at the beginning of his speech. One man held up a sign that said "McCain Votes Against Vets." Others were drowned out by delegates shouting "U-S-A, U-S-A."

After pleading with the audience not to be diverted from "ground noise," McCain said that "America wants us to stop yelling at each other, OK?"

The huge video screen that usually offered generic red, white and blue backdrops to speakers cut at one point to the odd sight of a large house behind a great, green lawn. "You thought it could have been one of the McCain mansions," said Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace.

McCain never seemed truly comfortable with the TelePrompter, and his physical moves were stiff and awkward due to his war injuries. He would smile broadly at odd junctures.

Yet the speech had many "stark, simple and eloquent" lines, said ABC's George Stephanopoulos, one of Palin's few critics the night before. CNN's Anderson Cooper said he heard more specifics from McCain than from Obama.

Some of McCain's toughest critics in punditry came from what you'd expect to be friendly territory. "John McCain has proved that he's not going to win this election with oratory," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant working for CNN.

Fox analyst Karl Rove called his speech "workmanlike" and "not all that great."

"It was a strange speech, a strange week, a strange convention," analyst Charles Krauthammer said on Fox, "and yet I think it was effective."

David Gregory and Chris Matthews on MSNBC, a network Republicans have criticized for giving big roles to personalities like Keith Olbermann who back Barack Obama, said the convention had given some hope to Republicans.

"I believe (McCain) will be ahead in the polls next week," Matthews said. "They see a winner."

MSNBC provided the night's best comic relief. Correspondent Andrea Mitchell almost seemed to drown in balloons after the speech ended, her face alternately flashing anger and what-are-ya-gonna-do fatalism.

The Republicans drew some media criticism for focusing on personalities - filmed tributes to Palin and potential first lady Cindy McCain were shown to the convention Thursday - instead of what a McCain administration might do.

"There are a lot of Republicans who would like to make this a choice between two individuals and their biographies, and they think they will win that," said CNN analyst David Gergen.

Also Thursday, Obama took on cable's kingpin, Fox's Bill O'Reilly, in a taped interview his show is stretching across four nights. Not only did Obama take time away from the GOP convention with his Fox appearance, he spoke to a big potential audience: Fox's convention viewership has been bigger than any network.

The two men talked about the Iraq war, dealing with Iran and the war against terrorism.

After the segment, O'Reilly brought two commentators on to ask for an evaluation of their performances. "You both get an 'A' in my book," said Jane Hall, an American University professor.

For Obama, he now avoids having cable news' most popular host criticizing him for not consenting to an interview.

"He's a tough guy, Obama," O'Reilly said. "I looked at him eye to eye, he's not a wimp. He's not a wimpy guy."


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