John McCain officially became the Republican Party’s presidential nominee on wednesday night and along with having the first ever female VP alongside him will be the oldest ever first-term US president if elected in November.
But supporters said the septuagenarian had injected a “breath of fresh air” into his election campaign with his surprise selection of Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old first female governor of Alaska, as his running mate.
Critics said it was “risky” for a 72-year-old presidential hopeful, with a history of skin cancer, to put a virtually unknown and inexperienced state governor within a heartbeat of being America’s commander-in-chief.
Mr McCain has also won a strong endorsement from the sitting president George Bush, who declared from the White House, rather than the convention stage itself, that Mr McCain was “an independent man who thinks for himself”.
The diminished role of Mr Bush, a highly unusual move, was a clear attempt to dismiss Democratic suggestions that a McCain administration would simply offer four more years of the failed policies of Mr Bush’s unpopular presidency.
Battle-scarred former prisoner of war John McCain swept to victory in a series of states on Super Tuesday, followed by wins in both Ohio and Texas, to become his party’s presumptive nominee months ago.
The Arizona senator set about uniting his party and formulating his general election strategy as his Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still fighting against each other.
He embarked on a week-long “biographical tour” of the US, toured states which were not known for voting Republican, and delivered key speeches on foreign policy and the environment.
In his role on the Senate armed forces committee, he also looked presidential as he visited countries including Iraq and the UK, being photographed with prime minister Gordon Brown in Downing Street.
McCain also focused on fund raising, an area in which he struggled during the primaries, and hopes his national security credentials, Senate experience and confident leadership abilities will take him all the way to the Oval Office.
Mr McCain is seen as a temper-prone old-school Republican who staunchly supports the war in Iraq and believes the fight against terror will be central to the presidency.
But his out-of-favour views on issues such as Iraq and immigration have led to many Republicans growing weary of his non-conformist impulses as he makes his second bid to be the leader of the free world.