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The GOP's future: McCain on Leno

In an appearance on Leno -- his first interview since losing the general election -- McCain defended Palin and gave a bit of analysis on the campaign. "'I knew I had a headwind. I can read the polls,' he said, in an obvious reference to a political climate soured by an economic crisis and unpopular Republican president and war. What's this say about the GOP brand? The 'party has a lot of work to do. We just got back from the woodshed,' he said."

"Aside from wryly indicting his own 'personality,' Mr. McCain declined to speculate on why he lost the election," the New York Times adds. "He defended his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, who some of his own aides, speaking anonymously, have blamed for his defeat. 'Did you expect mavericks to stay on message?' he asked, before saying he 'couldn't be happier with Sarah Palin' and identifying her as part of a group of young governors, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who represent 'the next generation of our party.'"

Also: "When Mr. Leno asked Mr. McCain about a run in 2012, when he would be 76, he responded: 'I wouldn't think so, my friend. It's been a great experience, and we're going to have another generation of leaders, and I'll hope I can continue to contribute.'"

The Times' Alessandra Stanley on Palin's recent TV interviews: "Unleashed and not humbled, Ms. Palin is on a speed date with history, upending protocol as she goes. She put herself on full display, in interviews with NBC and Fox News before Mr. McCain had a chance to take a no-victory lap on 'The Tonight Show.' And she has many more appearances scheduled throughout the week, including a star turn at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami on Thursday."

More: "Ms. Palin could be turning to television to restore her tarnished image, jumpstart a 2012 presidential bid, or both. But so far, viewers have mostly witnessed some of the very traits — disarming candor and staggering presumption — that drove some McCain campaign aides to leak damaging accusations about her."

MoDo also targets Palin this morning.

Is this Charlie Crist's coming out party as a future national leader of the GOP? The St. Pete Times frames the RGA meeting this way. "As Republicans analyze last week's results, they need look no further than outside their hotel to see how Floridians split their tickets. Miami-Dade gave Obama a huge 140,000-vote margin, but also returned three Republicans to Congress. Even as voters embraced diversity by choosing the nation's first black president, they also approved a ban on gay marriage in the Florida Constitution."

"Crist says the key to success is for Republicans to be like him: work with Democrats, seek 'common sense' solutions and avoid wedge issues that divide Floridians. 'I'm very proud of how our administration has been able to bring people together in a bipartisan fashion — almost a nonpartisan fashion,' he said."

"Crist's centrist, hopeful style has kept his approval ratings strong even during a prolonged economic slump, but it has at times strained his support among conservatives  in his own party."

In an interview with Hotline's On Call, current RNC chairman Mike Duncan suggested that he's open to holding on to his job and said he'll make up his mind in the next 70 days if he runs for re-election. "You should believe that you can do a better job the second time," Duncan said. "Certainly, I think I've learned a lot of things that I would be able to apply the second time. It's also, you don't have the constraints when there's not a (Republican in the) White House. You involve your membership more. You have more of a responsibility, everything from fundraising to candidate recruitment. So there's a lot of exciting opportunities with it."