“What’s their problem?” McCain asked during an interview with radio host Don Imus.
“She is a governor, the most popular governor in America,” McCain said. “I think she is the most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president.”
“I’m amazed. I’m amazed. Which is better? Serve 35 years in the United States Senate and say you’ve got to divide Iraq into three different countries, or be governor of a state and a reformer and give people their tax dollars back and bring about reform in the way that your state does business? Which is better?”
Several leading conservatives, including columnists Kathleen Parker of National Review and David Brooks of the New York Times, have questioned McCain’s judgment in selecting Palin.
Parker called Palin “out of her league” in a September column urging the Alaska governor to drop out of the race. Brooks, meanwhile, called Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party” during a forum hosted by The Atlantic magazine earlier this month.
McCain dismissed their criticisms and credited Palin for energizing the conservative base in a year in which the GOP faces “a stiff headwind.”
“She has ignited our crowds,” McCain said. “She has a wonderful family, a great husband, great values and she shares my worldview.”
“I’m entertained at the elitist attitude towards a person who is proven leader.”
Looking back on Palin’s early interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS’s Katie Couric, McCain said Palin did well and derided the press for asking “gotcha” questions.
“She did a great job in those interviews. If you want to go with the gotcha questions that’s fine, that’s fine, I understand that. I get them all the time,” the Arizona senator said. “It’s easy to make fun of people and ask them gotcha questions. That’s fine. I understand how the game is played. But don’t think the American people buy that baloney.”
McCain also mocked suggestions that Palin has to face tough interviews on the Sunday shows in order to prove herself to voters.
“That’s hilarious. With thousands of people showing up at town hall meetings, I’ve never had a person show up and ask when she is going on ‘Meet the Press.’ Not one.”
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the Republican conceded that he is trailing Barack Obama but seemed optimistic about his chances.
“We’re doing fine. We have a lot of enthusiasm out there. We’re working hard and enjoying the rallies and having fun. I’m very confident,” he said. “I think we’re behind, but it’s within the margin of error and we’re coming up. All the indicators are that we’re coming up.”