Former U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he expects his former running mate, Sarah Palin, to play a big role in the future of the United States.

Senator McCain made the remark during a taped appearance Tuesday on the U.S. late-night variety show "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."  It was McCain's first interview since his concession speech on November 4.

McCain also joked about his defeat in the presidential election, saying he has slept like a baby - sleeping for two hours, waking up and crying and then sleeping for two hours.

He defended his choice of Palin for vice president, saying the Alaska governor inspires many people and represents the "next generation" of leadership for the Republican Party.

Media reports following the election have cited anonymous "top advisers" to McCain as criticizing Palin, saying, for example, that she was not aware Africa was a continent rather than a country.

Palin has dismissed those reports and denied she ever asked for the much-publicized $150,000 wardrobe during the campaign, saying it was bought by the Republican Party.

Palin's name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.  Her term as governor expires in 2010.  

During his interview, Senator McCain praised President-elect Barack Obama for his victory, and said he looked forward to returning to the U.S. Senate.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.