(CNN) - John McCain defended embattled running mate Sarah Palin in an interview released Tuesday night, telling an Iowa newspaper he thought she had the” experience and knowledge and background” to be president and that he was “proud of her record.”
McCain ticked off Palin’s achievements with the editors of the Des Moines Register – a swing state paper that endorsed his presidential bid before January’s Republican caucuses.
"So, with due respect, I strongly disagree with your premise that she doesn't have experience and knowledge and background,” he said. “I fundamentally disagree, and I'm proud of her record.”
Later, after continuing to counter Palin’s critics, he pointed to what he called a divide between the press and the public on their view of the Alaska governor. “…You and I just have a fundamental disagreement and I'm so happy that the American people seem to be siding with me,” said McCain.
When editors pointed to similar recent assessments from conservatives, McCain responded “Really? I haven't detected that,” attributing those sentiments to the “Georgetown cocktail party” circuit.
“Some people allege that others may have spent too much time inside the Beltway, and too much time not out in touch with the American people,” said McCain. “Some people that know that Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t address the American people on television.”
Asked later if he had benefited from taxpayer-subsidized health care his entire life, McCain replied that the question had no relation to his ability to understand the concerns of those Americans who had not.
“You know that's an interesting statement, isn’t it?” he responded. “And I have never been an astronaut, but I think I know the challenges of space. And I have never done a lot of things in my life that I think I am familiar with.”
According to CNN's Iowa poll of polls released September 22, before the first presidential debate, Obama held a 7-point lead (50-43 percent) in the state. Iowa narrowly voted for President Bush in 2004, but gave a major boost to Obama's presidential fortunes earlier this year at the start of the primary season.