Republicans formally declared John McCain their presidential candidate, but his nomination was overshadowed by a fiery speech from his running mate, Sarah Palin, who launched a slashing counterattack on her critics and blasted Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
McCain locked up the nomination with a roll call vote late Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. Republicans hope the veteran senator with a reputation as a maverick can overcome the legacy of George W Bush and give their party four more years in the White House.
The state-by-state vote was almost anticlimactic in the aftermath of the speech by Palin, the Alaska governor who has gone in one week from virtual unknown to the most controversial figure in American politics. Her address was the most closely watched event of the four-day convention.
Palin took special care in introducing her husband and five children, including a son who is a soldier heading to Iraq, a 17-year-old pregnant daughter and a son born in April with Down syndrome. She mixed together praise for McCain, quips about small-town life, criticism of Washington insiders and a smiling, sarcastic attack on Obama.
"The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of `personal discovery.' This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer," Palin said, a clear reference to Obama's time as a community organizer in Chicago. After the speech, Palin and her family were embraced on stage by McCain, his first appearance at the convention.
"Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States," McCain asked through the deafening noise that washed through the hall after Palin's polished first appearance before a national television audience.
McCain, 72, is scheduled to accept the nomination in a speech Thursday night. If elected, he would be the oldest first-term US president.