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Analysis: Obama takes on McCain, GOP critics

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  • King: Obama's speech tried to rebut every possible Republican attack
  • Gergen: It was 'less a speech than a symphony'
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By Rebecca Sinderbrand
CNN Political Unit
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DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- This summer, the McCain campaign tried to make the presidential race about a handful of words, like "celebrity" and "elite."

Obama addresses a standing room only crowd at Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos football team.

Barack Obama greets the crowd at the Democratic National Convention.

On Thursday, as he accepted the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack Obama added a few new words to the mix, all drawn from his personal experience: food stamps, scholarships and loans. It's the language of the working class, and it's turf John McCain canšt compete on.

"I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine," Obama said.

The problem for the McCain campaign is simple: The more successful it has been in spreading the meme of Obama as an unqualified celebrity candidate, the easier it has become for the Illinois senator to exceed expectations.

Maybe Obamašs oratory hovered more than soared for most of the night -- but it landed safely. The policy proposals are up for debate. But they canšt be dismissed entirely.

Take away the fireworks, the confetti and the T shirt-clad crowd, throw in a few hundred lawmakers and a January chill, and half Obamašs speech -­ with its laundry list of policy proposals and its calls for personal responsibility -- would have fit nicely into any Clinton State of the Union address.

When Obamašs campaign accused McCain of questioning his patriotism, the Arizona senator said he had only been criticizing his judgment. Thursday night, Obama returned the favor. He took aim at McCain on issues from health care to taxes to national security, telling the crowd.

"That is not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."

And on national security ­ on which the public has given McCain an advantage in recent polling ­ Obama made it clear he's not prepared to play defense.

The theme of next week's Republican convention is "Putting Country First." Obama countered, "ŗI've got news for you, John McCain," he said. "We all put our country first."

He added a challenge: "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, thatšs a debate Išm ready to have."

In fact, Obama spent a good portion of the speech on the attack, continuing his campaign-long effort to bury the image of Maverick McCain, and bind him to George Bush and Dick Cheney in the public mind.

"[T]he record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time," said Obama. "Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change."


McCain's campaign ran a masterful media campaign this convention week -- doling out leaks and false leads on his VP search, and releasing daily attack ads designed to inflame Democratic rivalries -- in an effort to claim a small share of the spotlight.

But Obama's INVESCO Field acceptance speech was the August equivalent of the Super Bowl --­ a massive event that sucked up most of the media oxygen, complete with the fireworks, a capacity crowd, and celebrity acts that would have been at home at any halftime show.

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