McCain's speech excites Minnesota GOP delegates

Confetti falling
Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain stands on stage with vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on day four of the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A week ago, Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech under the Denver night sky, before a cheering crowd of 80,000. The Xcel Energy Center holds a quarter of that. But Medina delegate Ron Schutz didn't care that the RNC couldn't match the Democrat's spectacle. He said McCain himself was more than a match for the show in Denver.

"His speech was powerful in a way that Barack Obama can never be because of his life experience," Schutz said. "I mean where Barack Obama is long on style, he is awfully short on substance. John McCain's a powerful speaker. Perhaps not as long on style like a Barack Obama, but very long on substance."

Delegate with buttons
A man wears buttons and stickers supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on day two of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 2, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

McCain's speech was relatively low key, but the delegates' reactions were anything but. Mike Charron came to the Xcel from Winona.

"He wasn't trying to be a rock star," Charron said. "He was steady. He said exactly what he's going to do. I have one message for Obama: Mac is Back and he's on track. How do you like us now?"

If any of the delegates found fault with McCain's acceptance speech, they didn't show it. Sixth District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said McCain might even have trumped the Wednesday night speech of his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

"He did absolutely baffo," Bachmann said. "He exceeded all expectations. Blew the roof off. Topped last night if that's even possible. I think the American people are going to be absolutely wowed by what they saw here tonight."

Most delegates had a hard time picking out a single favorite passage from the speech, but Bachmann had no trouble at all.

"He had me. I was crying when he spoke about when he was in another country that's when he knew he loved his country and forever and ever, he was a changed man," Bachmann said.

Minnesota delegate Carlton Crawford of Minnepolis
Minnesota GOP delegate Carlton Crawford of Minnepolis during day three events of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for," McCain said in his speech. "I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."

The only thing that might have gotten the crowd more amped up than McCain was Sarah Palin. McCain has never been a darling of his party's conservative base, but Palin who is a staunch social conservative, seems to have captured the imaginations of the delegates.

Fairmont delegate Neal Breitbarth used to be skeptical about McCain, but not with Palin at his side.

"Sarah Palin has energized this whole party," Breitbarth said. "The ticket, the whole party, the whole nation is going to be energized by Sarah Palin. Mark my words."

But Breitbarth also gave McCain's speech a rave review.

"He may have had a teleprompter, but he was speaking from the heart," Breitbarth said. "You could see it, and we could hear it, and we love it."

Some protestors tried to interrupt McCain at a couple points, not that you could really hear them from where the Minnesota delegation was sitting. The crowd just chanted and drowned them out.

"USA, USA, USA," chanted the crowd.

"My friends, please don't be diverted by the ground noise and the static," McCain said. "You know, I'm going to talk about it some more, but Americans want us to stop yelling at each other. OK?"

Minneapolis delegate Carleton Crawford said that little ad lib was the best part.

"That meant a lot," Crawford said. "Everybody got it. And I think it's something we're going to be able to use as a rallying cry as we move forward."

And as the music died down and balloons popped on the floor, Crawford called out to his fellow delegates: "Alright folks, let's get back to work."

That's the work of trying to elect the McCain Palin ticket.