The crowd responded with chants of “Drill, baby drill,” echoing an applause line from the previous night.
Burnishing his reputation as a maverick, Mr. McCain criticized his own party for the way it handled its majority in Congress after 2002. “We were elected to change Washington and we let Washington change us. … We lost [the people’s] trust when we valued our power over our principles. We are going to change that.”
He also touted his reputation as a reformer, promising to veto the first big pork barrel spending bill that comes across his desk as president. “We are not going to allow that while you struggle to buy groceries, fill your gas tank and pay your mortgage,” he said.
He added: “I won’t let you down.”
Some of the loudest applause was reserved for references to his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who electified the crowd with her acceptance speech the night before and helped the party to emerge from its four days in Minnesota unified and energized.
“I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington,” he said of Mrs. Palin.
“And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: Change is coming.”
Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, introduced her husband as “a man tested and true.”
She called him a “loving and true husband and a magnificent father” whose time in Congress hasn’t changed him “a man who’s served in Washington without ever becoming a Washington insider.”
Mr. McCain’s speech also was the book end to a week that, just a few days ago, appeared as though it could have been a washout. With Hurricane Gustav threatening the Gulf Coast, the convention’s first day was scrapped and speakers were juggled, throwing off the usually punctual Republicans.
But as Gustav faded, enthusiasm and anticipation built, particularly for Wednesday’s speech by Mrs. Palin.
The current level of Republican unity was unimaginable months ago, when Mr. McCain was still feuding with conservatives wary of his record opposing tax cuts, supporting citizenship for illegal immigrants and pushing for strict limits on campaign finance and interest group advocacy.
He won the nomination with fewer than half the votes cast nationwide, despite having the field to himself for the last three months, and his fundraising lagged for much of the year.
But Mr. McCain shook his campaign up early in July, elevating aide Steve Schmidt to handle day-to-day operations, and the campaign has gained its footing. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, has stumbled, including allowing his much-touted foreign trip to get bogged down in questions over why he canceled a visit with wounded U.S. troops.