UPDATE: Sarah Palin has told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo that she believes Stevens "needs to step aside and allow our state to elect someone who will be supportive of those ideals of America."
On Tuesday morning, John McCain called for Sen. Ted Stevens to step down after the Alaska lawmaker was found guilty on seven counts of corruption charges, while a campaign aide suggested on television that Sarah Palin would not vote for the embattled legislator in his tight reelection race.
"Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of corruption. It is a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital," McCain said, adding: "It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."
And on MSNBC Tuesday morning, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds hinted that the Governor would not be voting for Stevens next week. Asked whether the people of Alaska should vote for a convicted felon, Bounds responded:
They were very clear, both of the candidates on our ticket yesterday, in condemning his [Stevens's] corruption, condemning his practices in the Senate and saying this is a sad truth that has come to prevail in Washington, that illicit and corruptive behavior in the United States Senate and the halls of Congress seems to prevail. And that they are both people that worked against that. In fact, Governor Palin ran against the Republican establishment, a Republican incumbent governor in Alaska to win that seat and she has taken on these corruptive forces in the past. They've been quite clear in their contempt for his behavior. I don't expect that they would cast their ballot for Ted Stevens if they were Alaska voters.
Though Bounds used the subjunctive mood, perhaps to lend less declarative weight to his statement, the obvious fact is that Palin is indeed an Alaska voter. MSNBC's David Shuster jumped right on Bounds' words, telling him "that's interesting to hear because Sarah Palin was a little bit unclear about that. But you are saying that she would, you would not expect cast her vote for Ted Stevens. So that settles that."
Mere hours after Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' Monday conviction on seven counts of felony corruption, Sarah Palin appeared purposely non-committal in her response to the news. "I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what's right for the people of Alaska," Palin said, stopping short of calling on Stevens to resign or drop out of his tough fight against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Previously, Palin had declined to reveal whether or not she was supporting Stevens' reelection bid -- despite the fact that she once served as a director of a Stevens-steered 527 group.
If Bounds is right about Palin, the the next question she should expect to field about Alaska's Senate race -- if and when she makes herself available to the press -- will likely be whether she intends to vote for Begich over Stevens, or just leave that part of her ballot blank.