McCain says he's not losing

On "Meet the Press," John McCain argues with Tom Brokaw about polls, George Bush and Sarah Palin.

Published October 26, 2008 3:18PM (EDT)

You've got to give John McCain credit for something, at least: he's certainly not giving up.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, McCain refused to even answer Tom Brokaw's questions about polls showing most voters think Barack Obama would be better on most issues (like health care, the economy and the housing crisis) than McCain would be -- on the grounds that the polls are wrong. "I don't agree with their conclusion," he kept telling Brokaw. "We have polls -- including I think a Zogby poll -- showing we're three, four points behind... We are closing, and we continue to be closing."

McCain said the campaign was "doing fine," because the enthusiasm at his campaign events is higher than he's ever seen. "Those polls have consistently shown me much further behind than we actually are," he said. "It all depends on the voter turnout model."

As to one of the top reasons most polls show McCain trailing Obama, he continued his new efforts (which are starting to take on the feeling of a deathbed conversion) to put more distance between himself and George W. Bush. "There were a number of disagreements," McCain said. "I know how it is on this show, you show various segments and comments that we make thousands of, and I understand that. But the fact is, I am not George Bush. The fact is, that I was not popular within my own party." (Though he listed immigration reform, which the White House also backed, as one of the issues where he's differed with Bush.) "Do I respect President Bush? Of course I respect him."

And on one of the other reasons McCain may be trailing, he insisted Sarah Palin is qualified for the job he wants voters to put her in. "She's a role model for millions and millions of Americans," he said, prompting Brokaw to say McCain's campaign frequently has to defend her lately. "I don't defend her," McCain replied. "I praise her. She needs no defense." (He did, though, defend her on the issue of her $150,000 wardrobe. "She lives a frugal life. She and her family are not wealthy," McCain said. "She and her family were thrust into this and there was some -- and some third of that money is given back. The rest will be donated to charity.")

Of course, McCain wouldn't be McCain these days if he didn't somehow step on his own message. This was the man who said this to Fox News's Chris Wallace in August:

I think that the response that we're getting from men, women, young, old, because they want us to change America. They want us to change it. They're sick and tired of business as usual and inside the Beltway kind of thing. You know, one commentator said, well, she has never been on "Meet the Press." ... No, she doesn't live inside the Beltway. She doesn't -- she and her husband don't go to the Georgetown cocktail parties. But they do live a life of a wonderful family. He's -- they've had a small business. They are just really good, down-to-earth people who understand the challenges that we face. So in all due respect to my friends that say that she has never been on some of the inside-the-Beltway activities, I say, thank God.

So it may have been a little discordant that he greeted Brokaw with this line: "I think I still have been more appearances on Meet the Press than anybody else."

Watch some of the show here:

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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