McCain: Palin would have 'added a lot' to 2012 presidential race

Calls for Romney to release more tax returns 'blatantly unfair,' senator says

Published: Thursday, Aug. 16 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

“I have not met a single American who says, ‘Hey, I want to know when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital to go and run the Olympics,’” he said. “To leave a very lucrative position, abandoning all that to run the Olympics, oh yeah, he’s really a terrible person for having done that. It’s crazy stuff.”

Utahns overwhelmingly backed Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primary, but then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. bucked his party and endorsed McCain. But when Huntsman ran for president, McCain went with Romney.

McCain said he would support a future Huntsman bid. "Certainly I would. I think he's a very talented person who served as governor and as ambassador to China in outstanding fashion," he said. "I consider him a friend and I also admire his family."

The senator stopped short of saying Huntsman should have waited until 2016 to make a run at the White House.

"You know, it's hard to judge these things because when Barack Obama first announced, nobody thought he had any chance. But I think it's extremely difficult to go from being out of the United States for a period of time to come back and jump into a presidential campaign," McCain said. "But whether he should have done that or not, I leave that up to the judgement of Jon Huntsman."

At the town hall meeting for Love, held in the Cultural Celebration Center outdoor amphitheater, McCain told the audience that they had an opportunity to make history in November, by sending the first African-American Republican woman to Congress.

"That would be a wonderful thing, not only for Utah, but for the entire country," McCain said, predicting Love would become an "instant star" in Washington without forgetting "where she came from and who sent her there."

McCain and Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, fielded several questions, including from a woman concerned about losing Medicare benefits under Ryan's budget-cutting plans. But at the end of the hour-long event, Love raised the issue of her race.

"I'm going to address this," she said. "A lot of people would like to make this big hype about race. Saratoga Springs doesn't have a high bond rating because I wear a fabulous pair of high heels. It's not because I wear a fresh coat of makeup or have braids, that's why we've been able to balance our budgets and leave our city to being firm and stable financially. It's because of the solutions that we were able to bring to the table."

Love's campaign is attracting national attention. McCain is just the latest in a series of big names in the GOP traveling to Utah to help her raise money. Ryan held a fundraiser for her earlier this summer and Wednesday, Utahns paid as much as $10,000 each to attend events at Little America featuring U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Next month, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming for a Love fundraiser.

McCain told the Deseret News he had met with Love twice in Washington. "We've had long conversations," he said.

Besides being the first black GOP woman in Congress, McCain said he liked Love's personal story of being raised by Haitian immigrants and that "she's incredibly articulate for the conservative values and principles we believe in."

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