During the most recent of his all-too-frequent Sunday morning appearances, John McCain was asked about his former running mate:
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain is openly admitting that there were tensions between his former campaign manager Steve Schmidt and those close to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s one-time White House running mate. Still, McCain calls Palin “a formidable force” in the GOP and remains open to the possibility of Palin being his party’s presidential nominee in 2012.
“With a high-pressure situation, there’s always tensions that develop within campaigns,” McCain says in a wide-ranging interview that airs Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. ”And there were clearly tensions between Steve Schmidt and people in the Palin camp.”
Still, McCain said, Palin was an asset to his presidential campaign.
“There are fundamental facts … that cannot be denied,” McCain adds. “When we selected or asked Sarah Palin to be my running mate, it energized our party. We were ahead in the polls, until the stock market crashed. And she still is a formidable force in the Republican Party.”
“I have great affection for her,” McCain continues. But “did we always agree on everything in the past? Will we in the future? No.”
While McCain said he could not predict what would happen in the next presidential election, the Arizona Republican says he is open to many potential nominees for his party — including Palin.
“Look let’s let a thousand flowers bloom. Let’s come up with a winning combination the next time. … let’s all go through the process, rather than condemning anybody’s chances,” he says, reacting to recent comments about Palin by Schmidt. “And I’m happy to say we have some great people out there, and Sarah is one of them.”
Since McCain is clearly trying to assume an “elder statesman” role in the GOP, it’s not surprising that he would decline to criticize Palin directly, but his comments do seem to confirm what we’ve heard from others, such as Schmidt. The books that come out of the 2008 McCain/Palin campaign could be among the more interesting in decades.