Were the two halves of that speech written by the same person? The first half was horrible. The prose lacked lyricism and life. It had no clear structure and didn’t build its arguments with care. He called himself a maverick but stuck to conservative boilerplate. How can you distance yourself from your party when your speech fully embraces its agenda? His attempts to empathize with the plight of the average American were vague.  By the midpoint of the speech, it felt like he sucked the energy out of this convention. Maybe this was an intentional move, a damper on last night's mania.

When McCain turned to autobiography, the speech was extremely powerful. It wasn’t just his gripping tale. There were hints of the McCain of 2000 and national greatness conservatism: “If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them."  But this was largely empty rhetoric; it didn’t connect to any of the substance in the beginning of the speech.

Overall, it was a mediocre effort. The emotion and images from the end of this speech will dissipate, just like John Kerry’s 2004 speech did. McCain told an amazingly powerful tale but failed to build the arguments that he can sustain through the rest of the campaign. 

--Franklin Foer