From CBS News' John Bentley:
In his strongest language about President Bush yet, John McCain went to great lengths to separate himself from him tonight as he officially kicked off his general election campaign. "Why does Sen. Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false," McCain said, alluding to the Democratic talking point of referring to a McCain candidacy derogatorily as Bush's third term. "We've disagreed over the conduct of the war in Iraq and the treatment of detainees; over out of control government spending and budget gimmicks; over energy policy and climate change; over defense spending that favored defense contractors over the public good."
McCain also reached out to Hillary Clinton supporters. "The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," McCain said. "As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach." Some polls have indicated that disaffected Clinton followers may support McCain in the fall, and GOP spokesman Matt Burns said that the convention office in St. Paul has been receiving calls from Clinton voters asking how they can help McCain.
But the presumptive Republican nominee spent the majority of his speech attacking his prime political nemesis, Barack Obama, criticizing his inexperience and mocking his catchphrase, "change we can believe in." "I have a few years on my opponent, so I am surprised that a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas," McCain said. "It's the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency and common sense of free people. That attitude created the unresponsive bureaucracies of big government in the first place. And that's not change we can believe in."
He went on to criticize Obama's plans for health care, the economy, and gas prices – even linking him to the current administration, despite also attacking his liberal voting record. "He voted for the energy bill promoted by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, which gave even more breaks to the oil industry," McCain said of Obama. "I opposed it because I know we won't achieve energy independence by repeating the mistakes of the last half century."
Trying to position himself as the candidate best able to work across the aisle, McCain spoke about doing bipartisan work, which he doesn't believe Obama would be able to do. "For all his fine words and all his promise, he has never taken the hard but right course of risking his own interests for yours; of standing against the partisan rancor on his side to stand up for our country," McCain said. "He is an impressive man, who makes a great first impression. But he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls; to challenge his party; to risk criticism from his supporters to bring real change to Washington. I have."