McCain’s “Maybe” on Palin in 2012 Is a Secret “Yes”

Unpopular McCain knows that a tepid show of support will give his old running mate a boost

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John McCain committed an act of sheer strategic brilliance on last weekend's "Meet the Press" -- an act of utter selflessness combined with political cunning that reminded Americans what better straits they'd be in right now if only they had elected McCain president last November.

Host David Gregory asked McCain if he'd support Sarah Palin when she runs for president in 2012.

The obvious answer is yes. He thought she would be a capable, forward-thinking president when he nominated her as his running mate in 2008; in a few years, she will only grow in maturity, sound reasoning, and her mastery of policy. John McCain knows this, and believes it as passionately today as he did last summer.

However, John McCain also knows something else: his preferred nominee for president will never succeed if his fellow Republicans know that he prefers that candidate. The people in his party who ultimately determine the fate of the nominee -- the base, the true believers who will happily brave the January snows and February rains to support their candidate -- will vote whichever way John McCain tells them not to. Put bluntly, Republican primary voters despise John McCain. He only got the nomination in 2008 because a bunch of Democrats infiltrated the primaries and Huckabee split the conservative vote with Romney.

So that's why McCain told Gregory he'd "like to see [Palin] compete," there were many other great contenders in the field, etc. He knows that the best thing he can do for his close friend and trusted confidante is act like doesn't want her to run. So watch the news, and in a few years when she runs for president, see how quickly McCain moves to support another candidate. The faster he moves away from her, the more he wants her to win.

Think about it.

Republican political strategist Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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