Analysis: Speech launches a new fight

The people closest to McCain gave an hour of speeches leading up to his own: His wife, Cindy, and two of his closest friends, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

They talked not about the programs he would institute but about his courage in past battles, about duty and patriotism and about his heroism during 5½ years as a Vietnam POW. He was introduced by a video that focused on his family's military service and war narrated in part by his 96-year-old mother, Rebecca.

'His hand at the wheel'

"It's going to take someone of unusual strength and character —someone exactly like my husband — to lead us through the reefs and currents that lie ahead," Cindy McCain said walking on stage with McCain's seven children. "I know John. You can trust his hand at the wheel."

In his speech, Graham focused on McCain's support for increasing U.S. troop levels in Iraq despite the political perils of doing so. He accused Obama of offering U.S. troops there "a patronizing pat on the back."

Ridge contrasted McCain with Obama. "Now, more than ever, we need a leader who fits the times, not a candidate who merely thinks it's his time to lead," he said. "The challenge of our times is not simply to change. The challenge of our time is to leave nothing to chance."

"You know, I've been called a maverick, Someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," McCain said. "Sometimes it's meant as a compliment and sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."

In his speech, McCain said the word "country" 25 times, and "fight" 22.

"Let there be no doubt, my friends," he said in a line that drew one of the loudest bursts of applause. "We're going to win this election."

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