GLEN JOHNSON Associated Press Writer ST. PAUL
Convention workers hurriedly rebuilt the stage where John McCain will formally accept the Republican Party's presidential nomination tonight, embarking on his final drive for the White House after a vigorous sendoff boost from running mate Sarah Palin. Elsewhere, on the final day of the Republican National Convention, a lot of the talk was still about Palin, who gave her big introductory speech Wednesday night, less than a week after being chosen for the ticket. McCain's wife, Cindy, suggested in one interview that she doesn't agree with Palin's support for a nearly total ban on abortions. And Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden declared that some news coverage of his Republican counterpart had been sexist. Parts of the platform at the Xcel Energy Center were removed by construction workers today to bring delegates closer to where McCain will give his acceptance speech, giving the stage a T-shape. Organizers said the change reflected the town halltype forums in which McCain has campaigned. "The extended podium will serve as a fitting complement to John McCain's preference for direct interaction with his fellow citizens," said Maria Cino, a convention official. Meanwhile, party leaders added two speakers to the night's lineup. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will speak prior to Cindy McCain. Both are close to McCain. Ridge was considered a finalist for the No. 2 spot before McCain picked the Alaska governor. And Graham has appeared frequently with McCain on the campaign trail. Delegates will also vote tonight to make the convention's nomination of Palin official. And McCain himself Will close out the activities with his prime-time acceptance speech. The speech was expected to provide the climax to the fourday convention. Cindy McCain admitted that she was nervous about addressing delegates herself. "I'd like people to know what makes me work and what makes me tick and who I am, what I'm all about and where I come from," she told ABC's "Good Morning America." "I have an interesting story to tell as well in that it combines the two of us and makes us a couple and what we will represent." Cindy McCain also told ABC she doesn't agree with Palin's opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest. And they also part ways on sex education. "I don't agree with that aspect, but I do respect her for her views," she said. Palin opposes abortion and rejects the view that pregnancies caused by rape and incest should be exceptions. The Alaska governor's only exception would be when a doctor determines that continuing a pregnancy would lead to the death of the mother. Palin has also opposed government financing of sex-education programs in Alaska. Cindy McCain told ABC that she advocated abstinence as a part of sex education at her children's school, but "I believe that it's twofold and I think all of it should be taught." Palin and her husband, Todd, announced this week that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter was pregnant and would be marrying her boyfriend, saying they were making a private matter public because of Internet rumors. Biden said the Democratic campaign was not criticizing Palin over her family. "It is off limits to talk about her family," Biden said in an interview with "Fox and Friends" on Fox News Channel. "Every family has difficulty as they're raising their children. I think the way she's handled it has been absolutely exemplary." The Palins have five children, including a 4-month-old son with Down syndrome, and that has led to some discussion over whether Sarah Palin could balance her family responsibilities with the duties of vice president. Asked if some of the criticism aimed at Palin has been sexist, Biden said: "Yes, by you guys in the media. ... When I heard that media response, you know, this coming from some of the right-wing guys, saying that, 'Well, how can you be a mother and a vice president at the same time?' ... I mean, millions of women in America are going through exactly what she (is going) through. And guess what? They can handle it." In his acceptance speech, McCain is expected to review his career in public service first as a Naval Academy midshipman and wartime pilot and then as a 26-year veteran of Congress while drawing stark policy differences with Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Democratic critics have questioned Palin's political experience as a small-town mayor and her brief tenure as Alaska's governor. Wednesday night she offered a searing, sometimes sarcastic attack on the opposing ticket. Palin joined other Republican speakers Wednesday night in praising McCain as a man of character, a former Vietnam prisoner of war who had spent his early career in the military and had sought to change the ways of politics in Washington. "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change," said Palin, toying with the central theme in Obama's campaign. Palin's 19-year-old son, Track, ships out for Iraq next week with his Army unit. The governor was unflinching as she contrasted McCain's military record with a lack of armed service by Obama and Biden. "There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you in places where winning means survival and defeat means death and that man is John McCain," she said.