RAY SUAREZ: Fresh off their national convention, the Republican ticket started their 60-day sprint to Election Day in Cedarburg, Wis., a Milwaukee suburb.
Sounding themes already tested in front of convention audiences, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defended her professional experience and repeated — almost word for word — her attack on Barack Obama.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), Alaska: Before I was governor, I was mayor of a small town. And since our opponents seem to look down on that experience, I’ve tried to explain what that job is all about.
I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, only you have actual responsibilities.
Just last night, Sen. Obama finally broke and brought himself to admit what all the rest of us have known for quite some time, and that’s, thanks to the skill and valor of our troops, the surge in Iraq has succeeded.
Sen. Obama said that the surge, quote, “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. I think,” said Sen. Obama, “that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated.”
I guess when you turn out to be profoundly wrong on a vital national security issue, maybe it’s comforting to pretend that everyone else was wrong, too.
Candidates exchange jabs
RAY SUAREZ: Palin has shaken up the campaign and has proven a strong fundraiser for both parties. The Republicans come out of the convention with a $200 million war chest to spend over the next 60 days.
The Obama campaign proudly reported its biggest single fundraising day, $10 million, between Palin's speech Wednesday and McCain's last night.
When John McCain took the stage today, he insisted that he and Palin are the real force for change.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: You know, I've been called a maverick. That's somebody who marches to the beat of his own drum. And sometimes it's meant as a compliment, and sometimes it's not.
My friends, I was not elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Congress again this year, I'm sorry to tell you.
I've fought corruption. And it didn't matter -- it didn't matter if they were Democrats or Republicans. I fought the big-spenders. I fought the pork-barrelers. My friends, when I'm president, the first earmark, pork-barrel bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. You will know their names. We will make them famous, and we will stop this corruption.
RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile, as Joe Biden rallied supporters in the Philadelphia area...
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: The American people are ready, I'm ready, Barack Obama is ready, so let's go and win this.
RAY SUAREZ: Barack Obama was about 100 miles north, where the troubled economy is foremost on voters' minds. He toured Schott Glass in Duryea, Pa., before addressing employees there.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: You would think that George Bush and his potential Republican successor, John McCain, would be spending a lot of time worrying about the economy and all these jobs that are being lost on their watch.
But if you watched the Republican National Convention over the last three days, you wouldn't know that we have the highest unemployment rate in five years, because they didn't say a thing about what is going on with the middle class.
Defending their campaigns
RAY SUAREZ: Obama again dismissed the Republicans' convention week as disengaged from the plight of everyday Americans.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: These guys spent three days and you wouldn't know what people are going through in the neighborhoods, because they didn't talk about it.
John McCain's campaign manager said -- this is just two days ago -- he said, "This campaign is not going to be about issues. It's going to be about personalities."
Personalities? I mean, I think I've got a pretty good personality, but that's not -- that's not why I'm running for president. I'm running for president to put people back to work, to give them health care, to make them have college that's affordable. This is not a personality contest.
RAY SUAREZ: And Obama defended his political resume.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Look, I'm not perfect, but the one thing people can't deny is, for my entire adult life, I've been fighting for folks like you.
I've been fighting for you: ordinary, middle-class families and working families, helping them get ahead.
RAY SUAREZ: Three of the four nominees are appearing individually on Sunday morning talk shows. Gov. Palin is not, but instead will return to Alaska to see her son off to Kuwait and prepare for the campaign ahead.