McCain: Palin can beat Obama

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said he thinks Sarah Palin could defeat President Obama in next year’s presidential election, but he’s far from certain that she will actually jump into the race.

The GOP’s standard-bearer in 2008 also shrugged off his former running mate’s poor standing in many polls, saying she would have the opportunity to turn that around if she did make a bid for the White House.

“That’s what campaigns are all about,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.” 

“I’ve never seen anyone as mercilessly and relentlessly attacked as I have seen Sarah Palin in the last couple of years,” the Arizona senator added. “But she also inspires great passion, particularly among the Republican faithful.”

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Palin, the former Alaska governor, is launching a bus tour of the Northeast on Sunday with a stop at a motorcycle rally in Washington, a move that has sparked more speculation about whether she’ll make a run for it in 2012.

McCain also weighed in on other contenders to follow him as GOP nominee, declaring that the health care law that Mitt Romney signed while he was governor of Massachusetts would be a problem for the candidate. 

And he declined to sharply criticize former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who said that McCain did not understand how enhanced interrogation works after the killing of Osama bin Laden. McCain was a prisoner of war for more than five years during Vietnam. 

“I think Rick realizes he made a mistake there,” McCain said.