(ST. PAUL, MINN.) – John McCain will have a hard act to follow tonight – his own running mate. Sarah Palin's speech was warmly received by the Republican faithful in the hall last night, and now McCain will deliver what may the most important speech of his political career when he accepts the nomination of his party this evening.
The stage set-up will be different from Palin's and from that of the other speakers at the convention. A ramp will extend into the audience so it will feel more like the town hall meetings McCain holds on the campaign trail, a format that is more comfortable to him than standing behind a lectern giving a speech. McCain just wrapped up his walk-through of the event site, where he was joined by his mother Roberta, wife Cindy, and his children.
When he saw his mom, McCain told her to "jump on up here" to the stage, which is at least five feet high. The 96-year-old laughed and declined.
"I heard you stayed out late again last night," McCain joked as they chatted briefly before he continued his pre-speech inspection of the stage.
McCain has been practicing the speech "on the fly" as he's been campaigning across the country, according to campaign manager Rick Davis, but McCain and his speechwriters have dedicated a "considerable amount of time" to it. McCain's reputation as a maverick who is willing to buck his own party at times will be a major theme of the speech, Davis said.