DENVER, August 29 – Barack Obama Thursday savaged John McCain and "broken" Republican politics, vowing to restore America’s promise in a tumultuous climax to the Democratic convention before an 84,000 strong crowd.
"America, we are better than these last eight years," Obama said, as he set course for November’s presidential elections as the first African-American with a real shot at the White House.
"We are a better country than this," Obama said, 45 years to the day since Martin Luther King laid out his "I have a dream" vision of racial unity.
"This moment, this election, is our chance to keep in the 21st century the American promise alive," Obama said, handcuffing McCain to unpopular President George W. Bush.
"We are here because we love this country too much, to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4, we must stand up and say: ‘Eight is enough.’"
Obama held the massive crowd crammed into an open-air football stadium in thrall as he swept through his speech, punctuated by multiple standing ovations.
A barrage of multi-colored fireworks and blizzard of confetti filled the Rocky Mountain skies when he was done, in a speech which his former primary foe Hillary Clinton praised for its "bold solutions and optimistic vision for our nation and our children’s future."
Hitting new heights just four years after exploding onto the US political scene, Obama gave notice he would fight back hard against Republican assaults on his capabilities and patriotism.
He said McCain did not understand the struggles of working Americans, as they see their jobs disappear abroad, living expenses rise, and prospects dim.
"It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it," Obama said.
As thousands of supporters waved tiny American flags after being whipped into a frenzy by a pageant of patriotic songs, Obama trumpeted: "I’ve got news for you, John McCain, we all put our country first."
He furiously rebutted Republican claims ahead of the party’s convention next week, that he was too inexperienced to be US commander-in-chief.
"Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe," Obama said.
"The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans — Democrats and Republicans, have built, and we are to restore that legacy."
And he toned down his trademark soaring rhetoric with detailed prescriptions of what he would do as president, in the knowledge that millions of Americans watching at home may have been tuning into his campaign for the first time.
He castigated Bush and McCain for bad judgement, saying his White House foe would not end the "misguided" war in Iraq, and would make the United States less safe with hawkish foreign policy.
At home, Obama promised to stop tax breaks for the rich, and cut taxes for the middle class, and said he would end America’s dependence on foreign oil in 10 years, and give every child a "world class education."
Evoking King’s 1963 march on Washington, Obama said what "people of every creed and color, from every walk of life" heard "is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.
"America, we cannot turn back."
McCain’s campaign swiftly dismissed Obama’s speech as "misleading."
"The fact remains, Barack Obama is still not ready to be president," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds in a statement.
Leaning heavily on his biography, as the mixed race son of a broken home, Obama also sought to address the unlikely aspects of his audacious White House quest.
"I get it, I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office," he said. "I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.
"But I stand before you tonight because all across America, something is stirring. What the nay sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me, it’s been about you."
The huge crowd earlier swayed to the soul music of Stevie Wonder and cheered as Democratic heavyweights like Al Gore castigated Bush.
McCain meanwhile had chosen his running mate, a campaign aide said, and rumors were swirling the news would leak out imminently in a bid to overshadow the Democrats’ show.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and independent senator Joseph Lieberman were thought to be high on the Arizona’s senator’s short-list.