Palin: Obama regrets bypassing Clinton

In this image provided by ABC, anchor Charles Gibson talks with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in Wasilla, Alaska, during an interview. Excerpts from the interview aired Thursday and Friday.

? Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Friday she thinks Barack Obama regrets not making Hillary Rodham Clinton his running mate.

Palin praised Clinton’s “determination, and grit and even grace” during the Democratic primaries, sounding an altogether different note than when she suggested earlier this year that the New York senator was whining about negative press coverage and campaigning in a way that was not advancing the cause of women in politics.

“I think he’s regretting not picking her now,” Palin told ABC News.

Her comment brought a sharp rejoinder from Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, on behalf of the Obama campaign: “Sarah Palin should spare us the phony sentiment and respect. Governor Palin accused Senator Clinton of whining.”

Palin, in the second part of her first major interview since she joined the GOP ticket, also defended the nearly $200 million in federal pet projects she sought as Alaska governor this year even as John McCain told a television audience she had never requested them.

Palin was confronted in the interview with two claims that have been a staple of her reputation since joining McCain: that she was opposed to federal earmarks, even though her request for such special spending projects for 2009 was the highest per capita figure in the nation; and that she opposed the $398 million Bridge to Nowhere linking Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport.

Palin actually turned against the bridge project only after it became a national symbol of wasteful spending and Congress had pulled money for it.

Palin told ABC’s Charles Gibson that since she took office, the state had “drastically” reduced its efforts to secure earmarks and would continue to do so while she was governor.

When Gibson noted she had requested money to study the mating habits of crabs and harbor-seal genetic research – the kind of small-bore projects that draw McCain’s ire – Palin said the specific requests had come through universities and other public entities and weren’t worked out by lobbyists behind closed doors.

On the Bridge to Nowhere, Palin said she had supported a link from the mainland to the airport but not necessarily the costly bridge project.

“We killed the Bridge to Nowhere,” Palin said flatly, despite evidence she had supported the project in its early stages.

Palin’s comments came after McCain sat for a feisty grilling on ABC’s “The View,” where he claimed erroneously that his running mate hadn’t sought money for federal pet projects.

“Not as governor she didn’t,” McCain said, ignoring the record.

Palin’s entry in the race has drawn support from many white women, and the McCain campaign hopes in particular that she can pull Clinton’s supporters away from Obama. It was in that spirit that she heaped praise on Obama’s defeated rival in the face of her earlier criticisms.

“What determination, and grit, and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way – she handled those well,” Palin said.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the man Obama picked for his ticket, defended Clinton this week when a voter told him it was best that he was chosen over the New York senator. Biden said Clinton “might’ve been a better pick than me.”

In Alaska, meanwhile, the investigator looking into whether Palin abused her power as governor in trying to fire her former brother-in-law asked state lawmakers for the power to subpoena Palin’s husband, Todd, a dozen others and the phone records of a top aide. The state House and Senate judiciary committees were expected to grant the request.

On “The View,” McCain said that Palin had “ignited a spark” among voters but acknowledged they parted ways on certain issues. The Arizona senator has said human behavior is largely responsible for climate change and opposes drilling for oil in a federally protected refuge, for example.

The GOP hopeful also stood by two debunked campaign commercials – one which said Obama favored comprehensive sex education for kindergarten students and another that suggested Obama had called Palin a pig. Both are factually inaccurate.