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McCain: Palin will play a 'big role' in the future

  • Story Highlights
  • John McCain talks about his loss in first television interview since election
  • McCain jokes about how he is coping: "Sleep two hours, wake up and cry"
  • McCain praises Gov. Sarah Palin; predicts a new generation of leadership
  • Arizona senator says he's not interested in another presidential run
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(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he "couldn't be happier" with Gov. Sarah Palin despite polls suggesting she was a drag on the Republican ticket.

John McCain appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in his first television interview since the election.

In his first television interview since the election, the Arizona senator and presidential candidate said he was proud to have had Palin as his running mate and grateful that she agreed to run.

"She inspired people. She still does. And look, I'm -- I couldn't be happier with Sarah Palin. And she's going back to be a great governor, and I think she will play a big role in the future of this country," he said on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released the weekend before the election indicated that Palin's unfavorable ratings were twice as high as when McCain picked her, and 57 percent of Americans believed she didn't have the personal qualities a president needed. Video Watch McCain defend Palin »

As for the future, the poll indicated that four in 10 voters would support Palin if she chooses to run for president in 2012. Among Republicans, however, 77 percent said they would support a Palin candidacy in four years.

Palin speaks out
Sarah Palin responds to her critics' attacks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and then later on "Larry King Live."
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McCain said Tuesday night that his party "has a lot of work to do," and he predicted that the young Republican leaders would help carry the party into the future.

"I really believe that Sarah Palin is amongst some, like [Minnesota Gov.] Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, there's a group of young Republican governors and -- mainly governors, but also some in the Senate -- that I think are the next generation of leadership of our party," he said.

Asked if he'd be up for another presidential run, the 72-year-old senator seemed doubtful.

"I wouldn't think so, my friend," he said. "It's been a great experience, and, you know, we're going to have another generation of leaders come along, and I'll hope that I can continue to contribute."

In his 14th appearance on "The Tonight Show," McCain joked about how he's been holding up since his loss.

"Well, I've been sleeping like a baby. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry," he said.

McCain said he and his wife, Cindy, went to get coffee together on the day after the election.

The crowd laughed as McCain said he got coffee and "not the newspaper."

"I knew what it was going to say," he joked.

Asked why he thought he lost to Barack Obama, McCain said, "I think personality flaw."

"Personality flaw?" Leno asked.

"Maybe too many people saw me on the Jay Leno show," McCain responded.

McCain said he could talk about "a lot of things that we made mistakes on," but did not go into detail.

"I'm honored by the friends we made. I'm honored to have had the opportunity. I know it sounds a little repetitious, but that's what I'll take with me," he said. "Sen. Obama inspired millions of young people, and I think we inspired some people too. And that's really what I think was important, that legacy."

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As for his future, McCain said he is excited about returning to the Senate.

"One thing I think Americans don't want is a sore loser. And I've got a great -- I get to go back to the United States Senate and work on a lot of issues and continue to serve. That's been my life," he said.

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