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McCain Defends Health, Campaign Tactics

Republican presidential nominee John McCain sat down Monday in St. Louis with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. In the exclusive interview, McCain talked about the economy, Sarah Palin, his health and criticism of campaign tactics such a robo calls linking Barack Obama with Bill Ayers, as well as supporters who say they are moving towards Obama because of the negativity of his campaign.

John McCain: Well I think that whatever is on peoples' minds is valid, but, the thing that's intriguing about it, Senator Obama has spent more money on negative attack ads than any political presidential campaign in history, in history.

Harry Smith: Even Sarah Palin has come out and said she would prefer that the robo calls stop. Your robo calls.

McCain: Well Sarah is a maverick. That robo call is exactly accurate. And by the way, Sen. Obama's campaign is running robo calls as we speak... I'm sure Sarah and I have disagreed on some issues. You know… to think that somehow we are saying something not true in those calls is absolutely false.

He was friends with a terrorist and his wife, he was. And we need to know the full relationship.

Smith: Your own people have said, "Well if it's about the economy, that's not an - that's not an argument that I can win with."

McCain: That's simply not true. That's simply not true… We've been focusing on the economy... Listen to me, I'm the candidate. And this - this campaign is about the economy.

Smith: A lot of Republican pundits have said, in the last couple of weeks, have said that your choice of Sarah Palin has been a disaster, If in fact you found out that her candidacy cost you the election, would you still say that it was the right choice?

McCain: Harry, look. Come to one of the rallies with me. You'll see the ignition out there, and the passion, and the incredible intensity out there for Sarah Palin.

If someone thinks that somehow she was unqualified, that's their opinion, but that doesn't stack up on paper. I mean the most popular governor in America, I'm proud to have. And I think she and her husband and her family are just wonderful.

Smith: Can you reassure the American people right now that your health is what it needs to be in order to take office, and not be concerned that it will become a factor, should you become president of the United States.

McCain: Have you seen me in the last two years? Twenty-four seven, out there, day after day doing the grind. I hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim a couple of summers ago with my son. I'll listen. I'll invite any of the people who are reporting on that to come out and stick with me and hang with me on the trail.

Smith: It's very interesting to watch you at the Al Smith dinner the other night. And some people said, "That's the John McCain… what you're giving me the …

McCain: I've heard that too.

Smith: [They're saying] "…That's the John McCain I know, that's the John McCain that we like so much from the past." Are there different John McCains? Are there different aspects of your personality?

(Read more about McCain and Obama making jokes at the Al Smith dinner last week.)

McCain: I'm a pretty good stand up comic. But times are too serious for stand up comedy. This is serious business. And there are real issues here, and there's real problems out there. Somebody who's about to lose their home probably might enjoy that routine at the Al Smith dinner, but that's not what they wanna hear from me on the campaign trail.

Smith is scheduled to interview Obama on Wednesday in Richmond, Va. That interview will be broadcast the following morning on The Early Show.