Joe Lieberman opened the door with his speech highlighting McCain's impressive record of reaching across the aisle. Sarah Palin kicked it down last night, establishing her reformist, maverick credentials to a party that, beforehand, knew very little about her. In the process, we saw signs of the 2000-era McCain -- the brash fighter pilot, the straight talker, the reformer, the anti-establishmentarian.
The importance of recapturing the maverick mantle cannot be overstated. Barack Obama's case for the presidency can be boiled down to two claims -- 1) I represent "change" and 2) McCain = Bush. The selection of Palin, to a point, cuts both arguments off at the knees. But it's time for McCain himself to make his case to the electorate directly.
So tonight, I don't want to hear stories about the Hanoi Hilton. I don't want to hear about how many terrorists he plans to kill, how he plans to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, how he plans to appoint originalist judges to the federal bench, or how he'll cut taxes.
McCain must seize the opportunity tonight to recast himself as the reformer, the maverick and the man who puts country before party. It's time to formally throw down the gauntlet and go for Obama's throat, point out that he, not the Changemaker, has an actual record of forging bipartisan solutions in the face of opposition from his own party.