McCain: Palin not a quitter

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended his former running mate Sarah Palin on Sunday, saying she wasn’t a quitter and that her decision to resign as governor was consistent with his own leadership qualities.

McCain said Palin did not tell him she was resigning as Alaska’s governor before her July 3 decision. He said the move left him “surprised” but not “shocked.”

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“I understand that Sarah made the decision where she can be most effective for Alaska and for the country,” McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Obviously I was a bit surprised, but I wasn’t shocked,” he said. “I love and respect her and her family, I’m grateful that she agreed to run with me,” McCain continued.

“I’m confident that she will be a major factor in the national scene and in Alaska as well.”

McCain surprised the political world when he picked Palin from relative obscurity to serve as his vice presidential candidate just before the GOP convention.

While Palin often drew larger crowds than McCain on the campaign trail and rallied grass roots conservatives, she divided the Republican establishment and turned off some Americans. Some said the choice of Palin played a role in McCain defeat, a notion the senator firmly rejected Sunday.

He noted that he was ahead of President Obama in the polls in September 2008 before the stock market collapsed.

Palin is qualified to seek the presidency in 2012, McCain said, but he stopped short of endorsing her candidacy, saying, “it's just way too early" and that he didn't know if she would run.

Since Palin decided to resign, she has talked to McCain, the senator said.

“We’ve discussed it since and I better understand the reasons for her decision. How could she most effectively serve the country and Alaska,” he said.

McCain said that the criticism Palin and her family received in the national spotlight also played a part in her decision to resign.

“I have never seen the sustained, personal, family attacks that were made on Sarah Palin and her family in my life….and I’m sure that had some impact,” he said.

McCain said that Palin’s resignation was consistent with his qualities of leadership, because she made the decision that “she can be most effective by stepping down, and she did.”

“I don’t think she quit. I don’t know if there was a quote promise [to the people of Alaska to continue serving as Governor]. But I do know that she will be an effective player on the national stage.”