LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A top adviser from John McCain's presidential campaign who has criticized Sarah Palin's odds as a presidential candidate in 2012 defended on Wednesday the decision to pick her as McCain's running mate in the 2008 election.
Steve Schmidt, who was chief strategist for the Republican's campaign during the 2008 election, said choosing Palin - then a little-known Alaska governor - helped the GOP gain ground against the Democrats and Barack Obama.
"I believe to this day that had she not been picked as a vice presidential candidate, we would have never been ahead, not for one second, not for one minute, not for one hour, not for one day," Schmidt said during a speech at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
"Her candidacy excited the Republican Party," he added. "There was huge excitement that transformed the race."
Earlier this month, Schmidt said that Palin's presidential candidacy could be "catastrophic" for Republicans in 2012.
Schmidt declined to elaborate on his criticism of Palin on Wednesday and instead praised her as someone with "great talents" in politics.
McCain on Sunday said that Palin remained a formidable force in the Republican Party despite the criticism. Palin stepped down as Alaska governor in July and her memoir is coming out in November.
When asked about Mike Huckabee, one of McCain's GOP rivals during the primary elections, Schmidt praised the former Arkansas governor as a formidable contender for the presidential nomination in 2012.
"He campaigned with a happy face, not an angry face, and I think he's a hugely important voice in the Republican Party," Schmidt said.
Schmidt also said he believed that same-sex marriage would grow in acceptance because of the support for it among younger voters in the country.
"Gay marriage will ultimately be a reality in this country. It's just a question of when," Schmidt said.