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John McCain and a surprise hit 'Tonight Show'

January 31, 2008 | 11:08 pm

Straight-talker John McCain, the Arizona senator and new front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, went on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" again tonight. No, make that tonight again.

Last summer, you may remember, when McCain's campaign was out of money and laying off staff and he was flying solo back in the economy section of commercial airliners, his candidacy was largely considered dead. The senator went on the same show then and re-announced his campaign. He said he thought that might give it a new life.

Guess it worked. McCain said what revived his campaign finances were all the contributions from Leno's band.

Anyway, tonight McCain was full of jokes. Jay asked him what he thought about....

Sen. Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton and McCain said, "I didn't know enough about it to have a thought about it." Yeh, right. The Straight Talk Express.

Jay asked him if he liked all the candidate debates, like the one the other night at the Reagan Library that was the 15th GOP forum. "I think," replied McCain, "there were only 14 too many." He said he much preferred town hall meetings, where he can speak to individuals and they can ask follow-up questions.

Leno asked the 71-year-old McCain about the age issue and Mike Huckabee-backer Chuck Norris saying the Arizonan was too old. "Schwarzenegger is going to take care of him," said McCain, who went on to recall similar criticism about Ronald Reagan "when he was running for president in all 13 states."

McCain said a few other things. About the head of al Qaeda, McCain said, "I'll get Osama bin Laden. I'll get him. We'll bring him to justice."

McCain had some really nice things to say about Fred Thompson ("a good sincere person"), Mitt Romney ("a very fine family man ... a good man") and Huckabee ("a good guy"). And then, hmmm, as if the two thoughts were connected, Jay asked McCain about his vice presidential partner, as if McCain was the certain nominee. McCain looked at Jay and said, "Well, I know that your contract is up."

Now, if you've TiVoed tonight's Tonight Show, you should stop reading right here.

Late in the McCain interview a surprise guest walked on stage, none other than former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who just dropped out of the GOP race and endorsed McCain. Jay started to ask about Giuliani's failed campaign and the ex-mayor said, "Do we have to?"

But then at the end, the newfound political allies, McCain and Giuliani, had a visible split. McCain, whose state is hosting the Super Bowl on Sunday, said he'd need convincing that the 17-0 New England Patriots could be beaten. And Giuliani, true to his New York roots this time, picked the Giants "all the way."

McCain shook his head but did give Giuliani the points. Here's a transcript if you want to read the whole thing.

--Andrew Malcolm