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McCain defends Schmidt, Wallace

From NBC's Mark Murray
John McCain today picked up the phone and called Reuters to defend Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace -- who worked for him in the last year's presidential campaign -- from the charges that Sarah Palin has made about them in her book.

"There's been a lot of dust flying around in the last few days and I just wanted to mention that I have the highest regard for Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace and the rest of the team ... and I appreciated all the hard work and everything they did to help the campaign," he said.

"I think it's just time to move on," he said.

[snip]

"Campaigns are high-pressure situations. The only more high-pressure situation that I've been in is combat and prison," said McCain, a Navy flyer shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for 5 1/2 years.

"But you know, I'm proud of Nicolle and Steve and (senior campaign official) Rick Smith [sic] and (senior adviser) Mark Salter and I'll always have great affection for them," he said.

McCain, who has largely kept silent in the high-profile run-up to Palin's book release and tour, said he remained proud of Palin, whom he plucked from obscurity as governor of Alaska last year to join him in his campaign.

"I'm still really proud of her and the campaign she ran and I think it's pretty obvious that she has a substantial base and interest out there," McCain said.

*** UPDATE *** Reuters has since corrected its version -- with Rick Davis, not Rick Smith.