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McCain’s appearance, which was tied to Veteran’s Day and follows two days of televised interviews with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was to air later Tuesday night on NBC stations.
In keeping with the Veteran’s Day creed of remaining a “good soldier,” McCain refused to place any blame for his loss on Palin and offered several familiar refrains about his running mate and the campaign.
“The one thing I think Americans don’t want is a sore loser,” he noted after Leno tried several times to corner him about Palin’s reported problematic behavior, the media’s perceived tilt toward Obama and other issues that plagued his run for the White House. “I’m a fighter,” he said, with a laugh. “I knew I had a headwind. I can read the polls. They tried to keep them away from me. But I knew we had a real headwind.”
McCain said that since the election ended he’s been “sleeping like a baby — I sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours. . . .” He seemed relaxed and comfortable, happy to be rid of the Secret Service protection that guarded him 24/7 as a candidate and amused at all the post-mortems that have filled the papers and cable news shows after the race ended.
Asked the main reason he lost, he joshed that it was because of his “personality — maybe too many people saw me on the Jay Leno show.” The late night host did prod him about the dichotomy of his personality during the campaign, however, and how the amusing and friendly McCain seen on Saturday Night Live and the Al Smith dinner contrasted so sharply with his often gruff and angry posture on the stump. “These are tough times,” McCain replied. “People didn’t want a stand-up comic.”
Among other subjects discussed during The Tonight Show appearance:
*Anonymous McCain campaign aides critical of Palin:
“I think I have at least a thousand quote top advisers. [It's always] ‘a top adviser said. . . ‘ [They're probably] people that I’ve never even heard of, much less a top advisor or a high-ranking Republican official. These things go on in campaigns and you just move on. I’m just very proud to have had Sarah Palin and her family, a wonderful family [join the campaign.]”
*Joe Lieberman’s future in Congress:
“One of the finest, most wonderful men I’ve ever known in my life. . . . I obviously don’t know what’s going to happen. On national security issues, he’s really really good. . . I think that Joe will remain what he is: an independent who stands up for what he believes in. And we need more people like that. “
*Joe the Plumber:
“I loved him, a great guy. I got to know him a bit. He’s the classic American trying to get ahead, trying to make it. I’m not kidding you, because we took polls all the time, that guy went from zero to 70% in name ID in 48 hours. It was amazing, amazing.”
*Running again in 2012:
“I wouldn’t think so, my friend. It’s been a great experience and we’re going to have another generation of leaders come along.”
*The GOP’s future: “Our party has a lot of work to do. We just got back from the woodshed.”
McCain on Jay Leno: Reflects campaign experience