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McCain declines early Palin backing

He told an interviewer he would not take sides while "my corpse is still warm, you know?"

WASHINGTON - John McCain pointedly refused to say yesterday that he would back former running mate Sarah Palin if she ran for president in 2012, saying there were plenty of other good people in the Republican Party to consider.

"Oh, no," McCain said on ABC's

This Week

news show when asked whether Palin could count on McCain's support if she seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

"Listen, I have the greatest appreciation for Gov. Palin and her family, and it was a great joy to know them. She invigorated our campaign. She was just down in Georgia and invigorated their campaign.

"But I can't say something like that. We've got some great other young governors. I think you're going to see the governors assume a greater leadership role in our Republican Party."

As examples, he mentioned Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty - whom McCain passed over to select Palin as his running mate - and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Pressed by moderator George Stephanopoulos, McCain said it was early to expect him to take sides so soon after losing his own race.

"My corpse is still warm, you know?" he said.

Also in the interview, McCain pledged to work with his former Democratic rival, President-elect Barack Obama, on the economy and national security.

He also rejected Republican attempts to link Obama to the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mike Duncan, has accused Obama of not fully addressing contacts with Blagojevich concerning the Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Blagojevich has been accused of federal corruption, including trying to sell off that seat.

"You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody, right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy, stimulus package, reforms that are necessary," McCain said.

"I don't know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama's campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois, but I have some confidence that all the information will come out," McCain said. "It always does, it seems to me."