Dayton Game: McCain Retakes Spotlight After Obama's Big Night

"Criticism of McCain was the thread woven throughout the speech," Balz continues. "For the past month, Obama has been under attack from his rival and the Republicans. On Thursday night, in perhaps the most important speech of his political career, he answered back."

It was not the speech he gave in 2004, but neither is Obama the same politician he was then.

(And those waves of chants -- "U-S-A, U-S-A"-- and then some Brooks & Dunn to close out the evening -- anyone else have flashbacks of Bush-Cheney '04?)

"Good, great or something else, Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night unquestionably confronted two of his greatest challenges," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama showed real fire, and directed memorable fire at his opponent, even on Mr. McCain's signature issue, national security. . . . Mr. Obama's purpose, obviously, was to open a direct channel between his candidacy and the personal lives of Americans, rather than open up about himself."

If he makes this pairing, how does he lose? If he doesn't, how does he win? "The first half, one suspects, was the speech that Obama felt he had to give: a traditional partisan appeal that, for all his sonorous cadences, read like it could have been stitched together randomly from speeches delivered on any given day from rank-and-file Democrats on the floor of the House of Representatives," Politico's John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei write.

"The second half sounded like the speech Obama wanted to give: a plea for a new brand of politics, one in which politicians don't attack each other's motives or character, and Washington calls a ceasefire in such drearily familiar fights as abortion and gun control."

The "temple" looked more silly than haughty, and Obama remained mostly earthbound.

"The new Obama, unveiled before about 84,000 cheering supporters in a football stadium, is more combative than the old Obama -- and more sharply focused on the economic problems of the nation's working class," Doyle McManus writes in the Los Angeles Times. "The centerpiece of his acceptance speech was a sharp-edged, almost populist, economic message, aimed directly at the middle-income voters who have been reluctant to sign up for his crusade."

"In a setting that was both portentous and a little pretentious, Senator Barack Obama offered an acceptance speech last night that was grounded and targeted," Peter Canellos writes in The Boston Globe. "Obama left little unsaid last night, and set the tone for a rugged general-election campaign to come."

"He offered searing and far-reaching attacks on his presumptive Republican opponent, repeatedly portraying him as the face of the old way of politics and failed Republican policies," Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "He emphasized what he described as concrete steps he would take to address the anxieties of working-class Americans, promising tax cuts for the middle class and pledging to wean the country from dependence on Middle East oil within 10 years to address high fuel prices."

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