John McCain and his fellow Republicans rallied behind vice presidential pick Sarah Palin on Tuesday and attacked Democrat Barack Obama at a convention featuring a reduced role for President George W. Bush.
Republicans will nominate McCain and Palin as their candidates this week to face Obama and running mate Joe Biden in the November 4 U.S. presidential election.
On the first night of convention speeches after a delay due to Hurricane Gustav, police used pepper spray and teargas to drive protesters away from the downtown Xcel Energy Center where the event was being held.
The confrontation followed a peaceful march on behalf of poor people by more than 1,000 demonstrators.
Palin's disclosure that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and the news that she had hired a private lawyer in an ethics probe in Alaska have triggered a media firestorm.
Some have questioned McCain's judgment in picking Palin, 44, and how thoroughly the relatively unknown first-term governor's background was examined before her selection last week.
"When he takes office next January, John will have an outstanding leader at his side. America will have a strong and principled vice president in the governor of the great state of Alaska, Sarah Palin," Bush said in a brief speech broadcast to the convention from the White House.
Former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson blasted "Washington pundits and media big shots" who had been critical of Palin and launched an attack on Obama as "the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president.
"Let's be clear ... the selection of Gov. Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. She is a courageous, successful reformer who is not afraid to take on the establishment," he said, according to Reuters.