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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential nominee John McCain, whose abrupt cancellation of an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" last month earned him endless ribbing from the comedian, was a guest on the show on Thursday and admitted his no-show was a mistake.
Three weeks ago, the Arizona senator pulled out of his appearance saying he had to hurry to Washington, yet he stayed in New York.
McCain and Letterman were good-natured and jovial as they finally met on the CBS television stage.
"I screwed up. What can I say?" McCain told Letterman during his appearance, set to air late Thursday evening.
"I have a son in the Marines, and I asked him to FedEx his helmet and flak jacket, but it didn't get here in time," he joked.
When McCain claimed last month he was rushing to Washington to deal with the financial crisis, he remained in New York, where he was interviewed by CBS news anchor Katie Couric.
The following morning, McCain appeared at former President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit in the city.
In response, Letterman took repeated on-air shots at McCain for standing him up.
On Thursday, Letterman joked that McCain's no-show could sway voters, saying when it is time to cast their ballots, they might think, "I kinda like McCain, but then he did that thing to Dave...."
Once Letterman said he was willing to put the incident behind him, he asked McCain about Wednesday's debate -- the third and final nationally televised debate with Democrat Barack Obama -- and peppered him with questions about his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
McCain, who is trailing in polls in key swing states and nationwide, said he thought the debate "went well."
Regarding Palin, whose short political resume has brought criticism of McCain's judgment, McCain said he "didn't know her well at all" personally, but defended his selection.
McCain also said he thought comedian Tina Fey did a "great job" with her impersonations of Palin on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The spot-on imitations have garnered Fey rave reviews and the late-night comic show a renewed popularity.
Asked if Palin would appear on "Saturday Night Live," McCain said: "I think she is."
"It will probably get more of an audience than our debate did," he said.
A spokesman for "Saturday Night Live" said: "We are not confirming anything. That said, we have an open door to all of the candidates."
McCain's appearance was his 13th guest appearance on Letterman and the first since he formally accepted his party's nomination.
Obama appeared on the "Late Show" on September 10.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst