January 8th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
10 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. LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation)

    And...... McCain choose Palin to be Vice President? America dodged a bullet when they rejected the campaign of hate, lies, fear & division.

    January 8, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Beth, N. Texas

    It WAS a debacle. Palin refused to answer the questions asked; then she winked at the camer as if choosing the next pres/vp of the country were a big joke. Joe was amazing. If I had been in his shoes, I wouldn've been insulted to share the stage with someone so unqualified to run for national office. But he was a gentlemen, explained his points, and avoided embarrassing her. He gained a lot of respect from me that night.

    January 8, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. GJ

    If you are too clueless and mentally shallow for other REPUBLICANS, you have serious issues beyond just politics. Please run, Palin.

    And I love how she didn't know (O)Biden's name when she was expected to be President of the Senate as VP. His name never showed up in all of those newspapers she reads?

    January 8, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. ted

    I feared the obama debacle and it came true.

    January 8, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. epatcadiz

    And there are people out there who seriously believe in this woman and who are pushing for her to run for the top job in 2012? Heaven help us all!

    January 8, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. GOP Orange Curtain victim, CA

    O'Biden? lol He does look Irish and he's Catholic at least.

    January 8, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Michelle

    Ummm....How hard is it to say Biden? This woman is SUCH an embarassment.

    January 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Tim

    This just in: Sarah Palin is dumber than a bag of hammers. Also the sky is blue, and water is wet.

    January 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. TomInRochNY

    He said, she said. She has been mocked by the best of them (I love Tina's the best!). She's not politically viable beyond her base. Old news.

    January 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Jack

    Once again we are confronted by the sheer and utter stupidity of Sarah Palin.

    January 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    This crap is TWO years old already. Give it up. Almost one week without a single mention of this idiot and here we are again!!!!!!
    WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. TangledThorns

    Schmidt is a pathetic liar and Sarah Palin already proved that in her book. Sarah Palin is a real leader and will be an awesome President in 2013!!

    January 8, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. Tim

    I doubt that Sarah Palin is as dumb as her detractors like to make her out to be (you don't get to be governor of a state by being dumb), nor do I believe she is qualified to be president. Her debate with Biden supports both points. She did "fine" in terms of avoiding a catastrophe, but no un-biased person could say after watching the debate that she proved to be qualified to be "leader of the free world". I hope the GOP has a few rising stars by the 2012 presidential election so we don't have to choose between Mr. Obama and the equavelent of a day time talk show host.

    January 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. tex

    you have to dumb down everything for her to about the third grade level so she can fit it into her little view of the world.

    January 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. Kawe

    Let's be honest...Palin is an interesting person, but in no way has the ability or credentials to be VP much less POTUS. I lament the fact that the media spends so much time on her while ignoring important issues of the day.

    January 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. Speaking for Liberals

    The root word of news is 'new'. This is old.
    Why did McCain Aides fear a Palin debacle? Because she was STUPID, that's why!!!
    This woman could have been a heartbeat a way from the presidency of the United States. We have already had stupid in the White House, we switched to intelligent and right now the oppositiion is giving him hell. But thank GoD we don't have this woman anywhere close to power.

    January 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. OldUncleTom

    Poor baby showed up at a football game with a basketball, but she actually did surprisingly well, after she re-wrote the terms of the debate to suit herself.

    The VP debate was one of Sarah's better moments.

    January 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. Obama Victim

    I feared a debacle if Obummer was elected...sadly, those fears have been realized

    January 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. Cat, Holt, Mo

    She is a moron, that is the plain and simple truth. She is an idiot, who thinks she is smart. Just imagine that stupid woman a heart beat away from being President. The American people deserve better than someone like her. So did the good people of Alaska.

    January 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Billy Bathgate

    ...and John F Kennedy could not utter the phrase "I am a Berliner" grammatically correct.

    Correct "Ich bin Berliner"

    Kenney "Ich bin ein Berliner"; this is the equivalent of saying "I are a college graduate".

    The gracious Berliners gave Kennedy a pass but the point is this hero of the Left could not utter one single, simple, little sentence without screwing it up.

    This is the same Kennedy of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the near nuclear immolation of the "Missiles of October", the Navy officer derelict in his duty in the PT-109.

    The difference is Kennedy had toadies like Arthur Schlesinger to put a spin on everything and scrape the pigeion poop off of the Kennedy statue.

    January 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. rumrunner

    the "say it aint so, Joe" quip was pretty bad, as well as the remark about his wife gone to heaven

    January 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Dan

    Sara O'Palin = Epic Fail

    January 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Bob E

    I am the first to comment on this article. Let's all do something different and make it the only comment. Then maybe Palin will just go away for a while.

    January 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Mike, Dallas

    Here we go again.. Sarah Sarah... Can the woman take the blame for ANYTHING?? Her politcal demise was the fault of EVERYONE else... Good Lord! She made so many on-air fumbles and mistakes.. but it's EVERYONE elses fault. Look in the mirror beauty queen; YOU'RE the reason for your demise; own it and learn from it.

    January 8, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Stewart

    Yikes, can't name a newspaper, can't pronounce an opponents name, and yet there are people that would be willing to vote for her in the next election......we need to spend more on education!

    January 8, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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