ST. PAUL, Minn. — Senator McCain of Arizona accepted the Republican nomination for president here last night, kicking off the final stretch of the campaign by promising to break the partisan gridlock in Washington, rein in spending, and reinvigorate the economy.
"The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause. It's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you," Mr. McCain told delegates on the final night of the Republican National Convention. "Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president."
Mr. McCain insisted he has a track record of making tough decisions to achieve reform, unlike his Democratic opponent, Senator Obama of Illinois. "I will reach out my hand to anyone to help get this country moving again. My friend, I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not," the Republican nominee declared.
References to Mr. McCain's military service as a Navy pilot and his more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam permeated the convention's official proceedings. Last night was no exception. The nominee recounted his heroic and moving story as he credited his incarceration and his brutal treatment with transforming him and inspiring his faith in America.
"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's," Mr. McCain said. "I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea — a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."
The recurring discussion of and tributes to a presidential candidate's military service dominated the convention to an extent unseen since at least 1996, when the Republican nominee, Robert Dole, was repeatedly lauded for his service in World War II. In Mr. Dole's case, the attention to his wartime record may have inadvertently underscored perceptions that he was old and too focused on the past. There may be a similar risk for Mr. McCain who, at 72, is a year younger than Mr. Dole was at his convention.
Mr. McCain got a warm and occasionally raucous reception from the delegates, but other parts of the speech seem to hold little appeal for the Republican stalwarts. At one point the Republican nominee took his own party to task for its excesses.
"We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger," Mr. McCain said.
Mr. McCain vowed action to cut taxes and to boost energy production from alternative sources as well as new oil and gas drilling, a proposal that triggered calls of, "Drill, baby, drill!"
"We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much," the Republican nominee said to a loud cheer.
Mr. McCain closed his address with what sounded like the rallying cry of a general hoping for an unexpected victory despite knowing that his troops seem outmatched.
"Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit," Mr. McCain said. In yet another reminder of the wartime injuries that have left him unable to raise his arms for a traditional wave, he acknowledged the rousing final ovation by smiling and flashing his palms to the crowd.
Before Mr. McCain took the stage last night, one of his colleagues, Senator Graham of South Carolina, paid tribute to him for his pivotal role promoting the American troop buildup in Iraq credited with reducing violence there in recent months.
"Without John McCain's courageous leadership, there would never have been a surge," Mr. Graham said. "Losing in Iraq would have been a nightmare for America."
Mr. Graham declared the surge to be a success and faulted Mr. Obama for failing to admit it.
"Al Qaeda knows it has worked. The only people who deny it are Barack Obama and his buddies at Moveon.org," Mr. Graham said. "Why won't they admit it? Because Barack Obama's campaign is built around us losing in Iraq. ... The surge was a test for Barack Obama. He failed miserably."
Mr. Graham also accused Mr. Obama of condescension, asserting that he has praised American troops for their service, while failing to acknowledge their success.
"They have worked too hard. They have sacrificed too much for a patronizing pat on the back," Mr. Graham said.
Mr. McCain's wife, Cindy, offered praise last night for her husband's attentiveness to his family, calling him "a loyal and loving and true husband and a magnificent father."
"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. I know John. You can trust his hand at the wheel," Mrs. McCain said.
Delegates also heard last night from a man many pundits expected to be Mr. McCain's vice presidential pick, Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota. He acknowledged Mr. Obama's rhetorical skills, but said Mr. McCain's track record was more promising.
"Barack Obama gives a good speech, but the best sermons aren't preached, they're lived," the governor said.
Another speaker, Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, used stark language as she promised that Americans could rely on Mr. McCain to protect them from the threat of terrorism.
"Ask yourself, America, who do you trust to defend yourself and your children against the haters and the killers whose only creed is evil? You can trust John McCain," Ms. Fallin said.
One of the biggest challenges Mr. McCain faced last night was trying to match the performance of the vice presidential nominee, Governor Palin of Alaska, who wowed delegates with her folksy but stiletto-sharp speech Wednesday night.
She was not formally nominated by the convention until last night. The motion to select her yesterday came from a delegate from Mrs. Palin's home state.
"It's a great day to be a Republican. It's a great day to be a woman. It's a great day to be a Republican woman," one of the top officials in Mrs. Palin's administration, Annette Kreitzer, said as she proposed her boss for the vice presidential slot.
Cheers of "Sarah! Sarah!" echoed through the hall before Senator McConnell of Kentucky declared Mrs. Palin nominated unanimously by acclamation. Excited delegates then rocked out to a Heart song that shared the vice presidential nominee's high school nickname, "Barracuda."
One of the few surprises in the tightly scripted program was Senator Brownback's brief reference to the five hours of surgery Mr. McCain underwent in 2000 to remove malignant melanoma from his face.
"From confronting cancer to making history with his vice presidential selection, John McCain lives for something bigger than himself," Mr. Brownback declared during a speech early in yesterday's session.
One potential gaffe in stagecraft had Mr. McCain appearing in television pictures to be speaking for the first several minutes from in front of a blank green backdrop similar to one he was widely ridiculed for speaking in front of in June.
Mr. McCain's speech was also interrupted several times early on by anti-war protesters. As the demonstrators were dragged out, delegates drowned out the protests with cries of, "USA! USA!"
Minutes before Mr. McCain accepted the nominated last night, police used flash bombs and percussion grenades in an attempt to disperse anti-war protesters trying to make their way to the convention hall, the Xcel Energy Center, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on its Web site. Police also seized a banner and an effigy of Mr. McCain, the paper reported.
Earlier, police, some in riot gear and others on horseback, prevented about 500 demonstrators from marching to the convention hall as yesterday's session was getting under way, according to the Associated Press. Officials, who said the permit for a march had expired earlier in the evening, forced the demonstrators to remain on the far side of an interstate highway that passes about a quarter mile from the Xcel Center.
As many as 200 arrests were reported last night. About 400 people were arrested at protest sites since Monday, when the convention opened.