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. Yobee

    And for the most part, she got "Joe" correct in the debate, so, there's that...

    January 8, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. margaret b. turner

    When it comes to intelligence, I put Sarah Palin on the same level with George W. Bush. She is a lot prettier, though.

    January 8, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. Cheryl S

    Another example of how totally inept Palin is! The depth of her sheer stupidity is appalling... Palin, please go away!

    January 8, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    every time is see this one I just crack up LOL this is the real deal , and this only touches how stupid Palin is . LOL LOL lool :)

    January 8, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Brian

    I can't wait to see what 2012 brings us. Sarah really showed us her true colors by cashing out in mid flight. I have a Russian friend who is often confused by the "goings on" in America. I tell him the same thing everytime he asks, if you want to know why something happens in this country you need only question how money plays a part it in. Where it's coming from and where it goes in any given situation.

    January 8, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Danny

    Their choices must be severely limited if Republicans think this dimwit would make a good presidential candidate, but after Bush nothing surprises me with this group!

    January 8, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Scott

    "Joe" or no "Joe", Palin is a debacle and an ongoing train wreck for the GOP and the country.

    January 8, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. ProudLib

    They feared a debacle, from someone who has such an obvious handle on geopolitics and the way the world works in general? Can't imagine it.

    January 8, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. David

    Stunning that people STILL think she is a good candidate for President. Really shows how selfish, self absorbed, and arrogant many Americans are. All they think about is someone "like them" protecting their right to judge other people and control what they do. They have zero interest in anything outside their home and just assume "we" are right about everything. They so easily forget about the 195 OTHER countries in the world. Pathetic.

    January 8, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  10. Kitchen Police

    Palin is a lizard brain.

    January 8, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    No matter how much the government media and loony left continue to attack Palin.........She is NOT going away.

    And, someone should definitely check out the national polls--Palin's popularity/support is growing every day.

    And, speaking of polls.........Has everyone seen the new Gallup polls??? Based on the new polls-–only 21% in the country, consider themsevles to be liberal. In the same poll-40% consider themselves conservative, and 39% consider themselves moderate.

    The Democrats are going to get clobbered in the 2010 elections-–only 10 more months-–and sanity returns to our country again.

    January 8, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. 1776

    Why is all of this a surprise? We all know that she's mentally challenged and unfit for public office. I don't want someone who knows only a fraction of what I know to represent me. If Palin became president we'd be sure to go back to the dark ages.

    January 8, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Just Breathe

    Wait for it.......BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    January 8, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Tony

    It never has been a secret; has it?

    January 8, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. EDDIE

    Is she truly that Dumb? I mean really.And to think there are people who want her as president.Ha and I do mean Ha.

    January 8, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Lisa in Springfield

    Surely no one in their right mind can be surprised at these "revelations"? The woman never did come across as being very smart.

    January 8, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. liberal wingnut

    Obama lied about every single thing he campaigned on and all CNN can still talk about it Palin.

    January 8, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. frankied

    Listen....This is a call to all conservatives. I am a conservative but just do not understand the blind support by other conservatives and Repulicans for Palin. She does not impress in any regard except for her desire for power. I cringe whenever I hear her speak. I also don't understand those people who admire her because she cannot speak well. As somehow that makes her sound less like the establishment and more like a real american. This woman is an idiot.

    January 8, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  19. dbacchus

    This entire story reflects very poorly on McCain. His pick was the height of irresponsibility. What a disaster it would be if, somehow, they got elected?!

    January 8, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. tmart

    I look forward to her being blasted again in another debate this time with incumbent Obama. She will appear so incredibly stupid. Do conservatives not realize that she cannot get votes from independents? And without those, she will lose miserably.

    January 8, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. realist

    The real debacle would occur if she had been - or ever again is - elected.

    January 8, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. James

    "campaign aides feared the closely-watched debate could prove to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions."

    It wasn't?

    January 8, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. Big John

    Once the American people figured out she was a pretty face with no brain she was toast. Thankfully she showed her true stupidity.
    I was hoping that 2010 would be the year she would drop off the radar screen and go back to pulling fish from her nets, that's all she's really qualified to do.

    January 8, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. earl

    Sarah Palin was not and is not ready for the national stage. McCain made a bad choice and has proven that Palin is a negative gift that just keeps on giving.

    January 8, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  25. Obama2012

    ahah...oh wow. Seriously, I thank god, everyday that she isn't my vp. I mean my god, she is as stupid as they come.

    January 8, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
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