Sen. John McCainJohn McCainDemocrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war McCain: Trump admin must fill State Dept. jobs McCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration MORE (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, will stay out of next year’s presidential primary.

McCain said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, his running mate of three years ago, would be competitive against other Republican candidates but stopped short of endorsing her.

“I intend, as is the tradition of losers, to remain out of the primaries,” McCain quipped to reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

On a more serious note, McCain added: “I just think it would be inappropriate for me to endorse in the primary.”

McCain said Palin would prove a formidable candidate if she ran.

“If Sarah Palin decides to run, I believe she will be very competitive,” he said. “She has a significant and strong Republican base in the Republican Party.”

McCain said he had no inside information on Palin’s plans.

“I’ve not seen any indications as to whether she will run or not,” McCain said.

Political analysts say several of the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls must overcome various questions about their candidacies.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) must defend the sweeping state healthcare reform law he signed while governor, which contained some elements that are also in the healthcare law President Obama signed last year. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) must answer questions about his personal life.
McCain urged prospective candidates to tackle nagging questions head on.
“You’ve got to confront it, you got to confront it directly and then when [reporters] ask the question again the answer is I’ve already addressed that issue and not keep the story alive,” he said.
McCain counseled candidates to appoint “honest observers” to assess their vulnerabilities.
He said Romney would have to do this.
“I’m grateful for his help in my campaign, he’s a good campaigner, but obviously he’s going to have to confront the issue of the Massachusetts healthcare issue,” he said.
McCain said he has met Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Bachmann'Real Housewives' producer 'begging' Conway to join cast Ex-rep admires furs amid PETA inaugural gala Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog MORE (R-Minn.) on several occasions but declined to speculate on how she would match up against Palin in the GOP primary.
“So far, Sarah Palin has not shown an inclination is going to run so I don’t know what the dynamics are if Sarah looked like she were going to run,” he said.
McCain said the GOP presidential nominee will have a strong case to make against Obama in 2012.
“The case against the president is primarily that he promised change and we really didn’t see change,” he said. “We increased spending and size of the federal government. We’re now rejoicing that unemployment is down to 8.8 percent.
“At the time of the passage of the stimulus, all of his economic advisers said if we passed the stimulus the unemployment would be a maximum of 8 percent,” he said of the $787 billion economic stimulus Congress passed in early 2009.
McCain said he is not concerned about the time it has taken for Republican candidates to declare their intentions to challenge Obama. He predicted most would announce their plans in the next few months, noting that prospects have more fundraising freedom before launching official bids.
“When you declare, then you’re subject to all kinds of restrictions,” he said. “Now with the way campaign finances are, you can literally raise unlimited amounts of money before you declare yourself a candidate.”

-- This story was updated at 12:39 p.m.