ST. PAUL (Reuters) - Republican John McCain cast himself as an independent-minded reformer on Thursday, vowed "change is coming" if he is elected president and promised to create millions of jobs by developing new energy sources.
"We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home," he said in a speech to the Republican National Convention.
McCain accepted his party's presidential nomination in a packed convention hall, insisting he can pull off the kind of change that Democrat Barack Obama talks about in a year Americans are hungry for new leadership.
In a rousing conclusion to his 48-minute address, McCain was nearly drowned out by cheers from the crowd when he vowed to fight for Americans if they elect him over Obama on November 4.
"Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history," he said.
Confetti and balloons rained down from the ceiling in celebration as McCain was joined on stage by his wife Cindy and his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who wowed Republicans by tossing zingers at Obama on Wednesday.
The 72-year-old Arizona senator, who bears the scars of 5-1/2 years as a Vietnam prisoner of war, launched a two-month campaign to win the White House, entering the push to Election Day as the underdog with most polls showing Obama ahead.
He said he admired Obama but that they had big differences and told his supporters, "We're going to win this election."
"Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd: change is coming," McCain said.
McCain, portrayed as no different than unpopular President George W. Bush by Obama and the Democrats, tried to reclaim his image as a Republican maverick in hopes of attracting independent voters likely to be key to the election.
He promised he would bring Democrats and independents into his government if he won.
"I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you," he said.
The Obama campaign dismissed his speech.
"He admonished the 'old, do-nothing crowd' in Washington, but ignored the fact that he's been part of that crowd for 26 years, opposing solutions on health care, energy and education," Obama's spokesman Bill Burton said.
Under attack from Democrats for not having focused on the weak U.S. economy at his convention this week, McCain outlined an energy plan that he said would wean the United States from its dependence on foreign oil.
"This great national cause will create millions of new jobs, many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity -- jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce," he said.
First, he said, there would be more oil drilling, an idea fiercely opposed by Democrats who believe increasing oil production off U.S. shores would endanger the environment and not bring in enough oil to cut the price of gasoline.
The idea is popular with most Americans.
"We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles," he said.
A handful of protesters tried to disrupt the proceedings but were shouted down by the crowd with chants of "USA, USA." Security hauled out two women.
"Please don't be diverted by the ground noise and the static," McCain said. "Americans want us to stop yelling at each other."
Promising bipartisanship, McCain bemoaned "the constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving" America's problems and said he had a record of reaching across the party aisle, unlike Obama.
McCain, a member of the U.S. Congress since 1982, portrayed Washington as broken and said both parties were responsible for it, taking a shot at Illinois Sen. Obama for voting for legislation giving tax breaks to oil companies.
"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. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not," he said.
McCain also talked about his defining experience, the years he spent as a Vietnam prisoner of war, a period in which he said he realized how special his own country was.
"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," he said.
McCain had a tough act to follow.
More than 37 million viewers tuned in to watch the Wednesday speech by Palin, just shy of the record set last Friday by Obama, whose nomination acceptance address in Denver was seen by 38.4 million, Nielsen Media Research said.
"So how about that Sarah Palin?" Cindy McCain asked the crowd before her husband spoke. "John has picked a reform-minded, hockey-momming, basketball-shooting, moose-hunting, salmon-fishing, pistol-packing, mother of five for vice president."
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