I would caution folks not to lower their sights too low: What McCain lacks in delivery he makes up in moral clarity. Indeed, I've always considered McCain to be a powerful speaker, offering some of the most moving addresses of the current era. For example, I frequently return to McCain's ringing words from 2006 at the New School University's commencement ceremony in New York:
I supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. Many Americans did not. My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and to engage in the debate over whether and how to fight it. I stand that ground not to chase vainglorious dreams of empire; not for a noxious sense of racial superiority over a subject people; not for cheap oil--we could have purchased oil from the former dictator at a price far less expensive than the blood and treasure we've paid to secure those resources for the people of that nation; not for the allure of chauvinism, to wreak destruction in the world in order to feel superior to it; not for a foolishly romantic conception of war. I stand that ground because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that my country's interests and values required it.Sarah Palin, in her speech last night, lauded McCain for his superior judgment and strategic vision. McCain will pick up on Palin's momentum, and we'll see a powerful acceptance speech and a rousing reception from the convention delegates. McCain will draw sharp contrasts between himself and Barack Obama, focusing particularly on his unparalleled sacrifice to our nation's security.
CNN offers a preview of what to expect:
Sen. John McCain will formally accept his party's nomination for president Thursday night, a day after his vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, delivered a rousing speech at the Republican convention in St. Paul.James Pethokoukis lays out the policy challenges:
McCain is set to speak during the 10 p.m. ET hour and will lay out his vision for America.
Overnight, crews have transformed the stage at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, so that delegates will surround McCain when he addresses the convention. The change will give the speech a feel more like the town hall-style meetings the Republican presidential nominee is known for.
During his speech, McCain hopes to show that a 72-year-old candidate can be an agent for change in Washington -- a theme he has hit on repeatedly at smaller venues along the campaign trail.
"What I have got to do is show people the differences in how we are going to change Washington and America and the differences in our positions and portray them in a substantive and hopefully a fairly eloquent fashion," McCain told CNN earlier this summer.
Sarah Palin was former chair of Alaska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission prior to becoming the state's chief executive. With the Alaska Governor on board, McCain's well-positioned to make the case for expertise and ideas on energy issues.
Can John McCain give a good speech? Indeed, he can. His 2000 and 2004 speeches to the Republican National Convention were pretty compelling. (The former, though, may rank as the most melancholy ever given at a political convention. The closing line was less than rousing, "And I am haunted by the vision of what will be.") Both played to his strong suits. One focused on government reform, the other foreign policy. And those two subjects will surely be important themes in what he says tonight.
But McCain will have to do something else: Persuasively outline an agenda to restore America to prosperity. That was one thing Sarah Palin did not fully accomplish last night. He needs to go beyond showing empathy to middle class folks. He needs to demonstrate how his economic plan will make their lives better and give them the tools to make their lives better. And the key to that, I think, is energy. High oil and gas prices have been a pernicious tax on the economy, slowing growth and reducing real incomes. As McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin told me here in St. Paul, "Americans have elevated energy to their number one issue."
It's an issue that Team McCain thinks will be key to winning the White House. And polls show that Americans seem to like McCain's "all of the above" approach to increasing our energy supplies and lowering gas prices.
The latest polls, moreover, show the presidential horse race settling-back to the dead-heat terroritory that marked the presidential campaign in mid-August.
CBS News reports that the race is now even at 42 percent. A McCain stemwinder in St. Paul, coming on top of Sarah Palin's momentum today, will set the GOP on extremely strong footing as the post-Labor Day campaigning gets fully under way.