January 8th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
4 years ago

Schmidt: McCain aides feared Palin 'debacle'

McCain aides feared Palin's debate performance could prove disastrous.
McCain aides feared Palin's debate performance could prove disastrous.

(CNN) – Former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt is revealing new details on just how uneasy campaign aides felt about then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's prospects heading into her debate with rival Joe Biden.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper set to air on 60 Minutes Sunday on CBS, Schmidt said Palin's debate preparations were going so poorly that campaign aides feared the closely-watched debate could prove to be a "debacle of historic and epic proportions."

The interview is part of a preview of the upcoming book "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," by political reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

What was most troubling, according to Schmidt, was the fact Palin repeatedly confounded Biden's name during the preparation process, referring to the then-Delaware senator as Sen. O'Biden. Aides were so worried that such a mishap in the actual debate would prove catastrophic that they advised her to simply refer to her opponent as "Joe."

"It was multiple people – and I wasn't one of them – who all said at the same time, 'Just say, Can I call you Joe,' which she did," Schmidt tells Cooper.

Palin herself addresses that moment in her memoir released late last year, "Going Rogue."
"We had no idea my mic would already be hot when I walked onstage, crossed over to his turf, and said, 'Can I call you Joe?' The 'expert' post-debate analysis was that my question was a cleverly devised strategy to disarm my opponent. Yeah, right."

Schmidt and Palin have been engaged in a war of words for months, during which Schmidt has openly questioned Palin's viability to be president and Palin has accused Schmidt of mishandling her during the course of the campaign.


Filed under: Sarah Palin • Steve Schmidt
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Hollywood Liberal

    So calling him "Joe" (rather than "Biden", "O'Biden", etc) was not a 'cleverly devised strategy to disarm (her) opponent', it was simply because she COULDN'T REMEMBER HIS ACTUAL NAME?

    Yep, she's an idiot. Nothing new here. But thanks for the confirmation that we, the USofA, dodged a HUGE bullet when we sent this simpleton back to Alaska.

    January 8, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. hongli

    Just look back at the early days of her campaign with McCain they had her saying the same things over and over and any intelligent person would have picked up that this was not a person who knew her politics and even her own country. Another clue that this was nothing more than a HOCKEY MOM was the length of time that John McCain and company kept this idiot from a public interview. Then came the Charlie Gibson which she stumbled badly and then the historic CBS interview with Katie Couric that made her a "MOCKING STOCK" and in the process brought a new meaning to the word "VETTED".

    January 8, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Len in Washington

    This interview on Sunday is going to be something to watch after seeing other clips of it on CBS this morning. He clearly calls out Palin as a liar and manipulator with examples.

    And the surprise is.......?

    Her supporters need to watch this. They might change their tune.

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  4. sn

    Will it ever end?

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. obama the liar

    the GOP 'debacle' was nominating the worst candidate ever such as McCain. just a big 'rino'.

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Dan

    Epic failure feared...

    Obama elected... epic failure has happened

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. Tom in FL

    They needn't have worried. The American public wouldn't know a debacle if one landed in their laps. The fact that she refused to participate in the debate and just read from her own prepared script seems to have been ignored. Her handlers had her memorize a bunch of dumbed-down slogans and platitudes, and her followers ate it up. They probably never imagined that she'd become the spokesperson for the clueless.

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. southerncousin

    I believe the debate was held about the same time as Pelosi started the Charlie Rangel investigation. Thats strange we have heard more about that debate than the investigation from CNN.

    January 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  9. Will Never Vote Republican Again

    Sarah take your millions and just go away.....Please!!! Will CNN and the rest of the media please stop doing stories on this substanceless woman. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!

    January 8, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Tom L.

    I can't wait to see all of the Palin bashing for this one. The irony of the article is that she whooped Biden in the debate...

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. G Wurm

    Palin is in the same category as Georgie W. illiterate! " I can see Russia" from my kitchen window". If the Republicans are that stupid and elect another "bushie" they deserve what they get.

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Jon B

    Stupid is as stupid does. DURRRR!!

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. bobby

    are you surprised?????????

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. kebo72

    Palin herself addresses that moment in her memoir released late last year, "Going Rogue."
    "We had no idea my mic would already be hot when I walked onstage, crossed over to his turf, and said, 'Can I call you Joe?' The 'expert' post-debate analysis was that my question was a cleverly devised strategy to disarm my opponent. Yeah, right."

    ----–
    So, by saying Yeah, right was she admitting in her book it's because she is an idiot for not being able to remember her opponents last name?

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. I'm a Liberal-You got a problem with that?

    Frightening to think she could have actually been the V.P. Forget her politics. The fact that she embraces her non-intellectual status is what I find so appalling. I lost all respect for McCain when he chose her.

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. Prospero

    The "Can I call you 'Joe'?" queston was so obviously calculated so she could use the punchline " Say it ain't so, Joe " later that night. The whole country saw that line coming a mile away.

    ...yeah, good times...

    January 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. liz

    And this is news why???? Sarah Palin with her political cunning will never be accused of being overly bright or knowledgeable.

    January 8, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. Dixie

    None of this is surprising! Those who did not acknowledge what they were seeing before were simply refusing to see.

    January 8, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. FarLeft

    Sarah Palin IS a debacle!! She is the epitome of the political clown, posing, posturing, ridiculous and absurd statements, complete with caked-on make-up. What a horrible woman.

    January 8, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. suefromALASKA

    Intelligence has never been $arah's strong point!

    Her entire persona exits around small, trite quips.

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    It is a sad state of affairs in the GOP when the extreme right wing of the party considers Palin a serious candidate for president. Do they really think Palin can answer the 3 am emergency phone call?

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. BOB

    Give me a break. Palin has more brains in her little finger than Biden has in his whole body. That in itself is scary.

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. DCTWMT

    How people can support her is beyond me. She is so completely unqualified, both in experience and intellect, that her election to anything omportant would accelerate the downward spiral of this country begun by the Bush administration. It's downright terrifying.

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. MB Seattle

    Joe the senator, Joe the plumber Joe the Lieberman. Too many Joe's for that girl.

    Keep it simple call the all Joe.

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Annie

    Why do you think all of us who do not support or like Palin but love to watch her on TV....we love to watch her screw up, we love for her to show us how stupid and ignorant she is, what lack of Knowledge she has........and all the mistakes she makes.......love it.......love it........why do you think she doesn't do any interviews with the major media, because she knows what a screw up she is and knows she can't speak with any intelligence........it's not that the media hates her or try's to make her look bad, she doesn't need any help from the media, she does it all on her own.......

    January 8, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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