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. Todd A

    Us democrats weren't the only ones fearing Palin it would seem. Even people directing the republican campaign knew she was an idiot.

    January 8, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. steve

    I think if you look up 'debacle' in the dictionary, you'll find Palin's pic. How and why does she still merit coverage? She is well beyond her 15 minutes, and no one (save the far right) takes her seriously.

    January 8, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Joe

    I really like her. I really want her to run in 2012. She will be a great president. That way we know we know that GOP will not have any chance at all until 2016.

    January 8, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. goofy

    Typical CNN tripe! Palin was so much more classy than "gaffe Joe" ! She's really got the libs worried about their imminent end of power !!

    January 8, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Curt

    If Steve Schmidt had allowed the electorate to hear the real Sarah Palin, we wouldn't be up to our eyes in the mess Obama has created.

    January 8, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Doug

    Just when you think the depths of her stupidity have been thoroughly plumbed, along comes another crevasse. No wonder she's the darling of the teabaggers and similar loons.

    January 8, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. super trampped

    she's a nut case alright...a perfect fit w/the republicans.

    that's how they want their women pretty, dumb, and stupid.....

    January 8, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Kate

    And this woman could be President???I THINK NOT!!!!

    January 8, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  9. Norm

    Carl Denham found King Kong on Skull Island and brought him to New York. Once there, Kong suceeded in destroying parts of the city.

    John McCain found Sarah Palin in Alaska and brought her to the lower 48. Once there, Sarah suceeded in further destroying the GOP.

    Moral: It’s sometimes advisable to leave wild and rogue things alone. Both Carl Denham and John McCain are responsible for their actions.

    January 8, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. sniffyboy

    I love that she makes fun of pundits for over-estimating her......."the 'expert' post-debate analysis was that my question was a cleverly devised strategy to disarm my opponent. Yeah, right." That's right Sarah.........Show them that you're dumber than they thought you were!

    January 8, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  11. kc3

    Sarah palin is a loser... Empty brain.

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. Digger

    What about Obama's viability as a president. What real job has he had? And don't give me this crap about being a Senator....that's a joke. People really need to see his performances without a teleprompter in front of him. Just search for it on the internet. What a joke!

    All one has to do is read about the upcoming deflation that is likely to occur in the next several months. Obama and his liberal counterparts are only making things much worse with their plans to raise taxes, pass cap and trade and force what will be extremely expensive healthcare down our throats. Just one word of advice, when every Republic votes against a piece of legislation as compared to Democrats, run away from it like it's the plague. The last time that happened, the Republicans voted to put regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while every Democrat voted against it. We all know what happened as a result of that.

    They can't fix what's to come with any amount of their stimulus. Especially when the money is going to non-existant bogus zip codes. Is anyone really that surprised about that? They can't blame George Bush for what's to come....although they will try.

    I don't think Palin would be the best president, but she certainly couldn't do any worse!

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. SayingWhatPeopleAreThinking

    The true heroes are Senator O'McCain's campaign advisers who had to dress up this trailer park trash and prop her up in front of the camera.

    What is CNN and all these other junk media outlets obsession with this train wreck anyway?

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Paul H

    Oh yes Sarah Palin vs. the media again. Let's shine the light on all of the negatives shall we. It's funny how this non factor politician out of Podunk Alaska has stuck in so many people's craws.
    She has ruffled so many feathers in this country, that she might just be what we need. Because she gets under just the right peoples skin.

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. ATPP

    What a freakin' moron John Mccain unleashed on us. The fact that she has 'supporters' only shows that they are also morons, who would support anyone who spouts the tired ideological crap they seem to think is devine. (Only she has no idea what's she's talking about).

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Allen

    Yeah! Put her in charge of the free world! She'll re-write all of history without ever having read it! Who need brains to be Commander-In-Chief!

    You betcha! *wink*

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. adam

    Further proof that she is an imbecile.

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  18. Paul G

    Looks like McCain's aides were right – Palin is still a debacle!

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Yet she did just fine against Biden at least tying Biden in the debate if not winning it.

    January 8, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. johnrj08

    As I recall, the only way Palin made it through that debate and avoid an "epic debacle" was by announcing in her opening statement that she wasn't going to respond to any of those "old typical questions". Basically, she wasn't going to follow the rules of the debate because, deep inside that vacuous cranium, she realized that she didn't have the vaguest idea of what she would be talking about. Palin is constantly making the lamest excuses for EVERYTHING that she does, yet her followers giggle with glee that she is so clever.

    January 8, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. Obama Enemy List Wannabe

    Sounds like Steve wants to sell a lot of books to the drive-by media and their (stupid) audience. Can't say it's a dumb plan, just a dishonest one.

    January 8, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Rose in Colorado

    It is still amazing to me that John McCain chose such a person as Sarah Palin for a Vice President position. It is clear to this day that Sarah Palin is not material for this position. She is not well educated in most respects and it shows. She has no class and comes through like a power hungry person.

    In my opinion she really hurt John McCain's campaign.

    January 8, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. vgal

    Pretty funny, but it won't change any opinions. The people that don't like her already know that she is not smart – not in the least. The people that love her don't care – after all, they want someone "just like them".

    January 8, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. New Yorker

    But what is really troubling is that the current administration is much more of a threat to this country than Palin could ever possibly be.

    January 8, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. Just call me Joe

    Palin is hillarious and so unintentionally. I would never vote for her (obviously), and I hope she never holds office again, but I love her for her entertainment value.

    January 8, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
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