(CNN) – Sarah Palin may just be the next Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton - two previous governors underestimated by the national media who went on to win the White House, John McCain said Monday.
Appearing alongside Palin in an interview on CBS, McCain reiterated his confidence in the Alaska governor, even as several conservatives suggested she is unqualified for the No. 2 spot on a national ticket.
"This is not the first time that I've seen a governor being questioned by some quote, 'expert,' " McCain told CBS' Katie Couric as Palin looked on. "I remember that Ronald Reagan was a 'cowboy.' President Clinton was a governor of a very small state that had 'no experience' either. I remember how easy it was going to be for Bush I to defeat him.
"But the point is I've seen underestimation before," McCain added. "I'm very proud of the excitement that Gov. Palin has ignited with our party and around this country. It is a level of excitement and enthusiasm, frankly, that I haven't seen before. And I'd like to attribute it to me. But the fact is that she has done incredible job. And I'm so proud of the work that she's doing."
The comments come after Palin's widely panned interview with Couric last week during which the Republican VP candidate struggled through several answers on her foreign policy credentials and the proposed economic bailout. The comments instantly became fodder for late-night comedians and prompted criticism from several conservative corners that Palin appeared to be in over her head. But a counter-chorus has also emerged, as supporters have publicly urged the campaign not to keep Palin so isolated from the media and to allow her unfiltered audience interaction.
“Holding Sarah Palin to just three interviews and microscopically focusing on each interview I think has been a mistake,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Monday. “I think they'd be a lot wiser to let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let her talk to the media, let her talk to people."
But also in the interview with Couric on Monday, McCain decried "gotcha" journalism as he sought to downplay Palin's recent comments that suggested she would support crossing into Pakistan from the Afghanistan to root out terrorists.
"I understand this day and age of "gotcha" journalism, was that a pizza place?" McCain said regarding where Palin made the comments. "In a conversation with someone who you didn't hear … the question very well, you don't know the context of the conversation, grab a phrase. Gov. Palin and I agree that you don't announce that you're going to attack another country."
The comments came during Palin's visit to a cheesesteak restaurant in Philadelphia on Saturday night, when a voter asked if she supported a cross-border attack on Pakistan
"If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should," Palin responded, in comments that contradict McCain's long-standing position of consulting with Pakistan before carrying out attacks on terrorists within its borders.