No home run for McCain

On his big night, John McCain gave at best an uneven speech; even a moving segment about his time as a prisoner of war may not have saved it for him.

Published September 5, 2008 4:30AM (EDT)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- John McCain started off slow. And for a moment, when antiwar protesters broke in and heckled him, distracting his crowd's attention, it seemed that all might be lost and that he might fall completely flat on a night in which he needed to shine.

But the Republican nominee and his speechwriter had saved the best -- in this case, the story of McCain's time as a prisoner of war -- for last. It was a moving section, one that seemed to make the entire Xcel Center go silent. And it made for a good transition into his closing argument, a call for Americans to join with him to fight for their country. Now the McCain campaign just has to hope that voters at home kept watching long enough to see the big finish.

So far, the reviews aren't good. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin calling this " the worst speech by a nominee that I’ve heard since Jimmy Carter in 1980" is one thing. But the harsh critique that former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson delivered on MSNBC (which Barack Obama's campaign was quick to blast out to reporters) was something else entirely.

"Pretty disappointing," Gerson said. "I think that was a missed opportunity. Many Americans needed to hear from this speech something they have never heard from Republicans before. And in reality, a lot of the policy they’ve heard from Republicans before."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.