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. Doles

    Look, we live in the Greatest country the Earth has ever known. But for someone to actually say that this woman should be President of the United States is the most ridiculous thing anyone could utter. She's simply, in my opinion, not presidential material. I don't even think any amount of coaching will ever change this fact. I'm sure there have been inexperience individuals, i.e Obama, who have been elected President. However, I still believe it would require a certain amount of appropriate smart of the position. She just doesn't have it. Yes, we need a Joe six pack or soccer mom to become President. She's just not it.

    January 8, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Grant

    Who cares? The woman is an idiot of unprecedented caliber; no new news there! Make her just go away, please.

    January 8, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. bill

    Sarah Oh-Palin!

    January 8, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. HypocriCNN/FOX Nuisense Channel Of Fools!

    Aw! I Just Bet Old Wolf (The Hound) Blitzer Is Just Crying In His Stooper! Anyways, Sarah Palin Being A Disaster Of Epic Proportion Is As Much An Understatement As FOX News Channel Being Opinion Masquerading As Journalism.

    January 8, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Hannah

    We had a "president" for eight long years that needed propping up, butchered the English language, wasn't knowledgeable in history, geography, didn't read, and he/they ruined our country. We don't need another one like that no matter how pretty she is.

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. Ed

    Is anyone surprised? I still remember when McCain tried to suspend his campaign a few days before the scheduled Palin debate, then offered to cancel the debate and have another McCain/Obama debate instead. They were doing everything they could to keep Palin out of the debate – and there's no reason to do that unless they thought her performance was going to be dreadful.

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. Linda32

    LOL, Palin actually did say O'Biden during the debate, there's a tape of it. I am so thankful that we did not have to suffer through a McCain/Palin administration. That would have made the USA a complete laughing stock to the world.

    I do have to wonder about McCain and his people that they would find it acceptable to push such as unqualified person into the role of VP. Country first???? I think not!

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. josephine

    And she is probably going to be the presidential candidate for 2012. Another debacle of epic proportions (Part 2). Scary, isn't it?

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. Bill Mejia

    who was the people or may I said the forces that imposed the Palin nightmare ?

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. ART

    Come on ,leave Sarah alone. We all know shes as dumb as dumb can be

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Shock & Aw (Shucks)

    Mishandled her? What a hoot. McCain picking Palin sealed my move away from the Republican party. Probably forever. What a naked ploy to appeal to the far right, and as they say, to get women to vote GOP. THAT was stupid. Sure she speaks better now, but she is still the same mean, paranoid woman. Go read the troopergate transcripts. Talk about vindictive. Also, spent a fortune of Alaska's money on a personal agenda. Keep her away from power, please!

    RNC then chooses Steele as their chairman. What Up? Could they have chosen a worse person to be their spokesman? They've got to quit letting Cheney run the party, or Rove, or whatever crazy person it is. Driving the GOP further into the corner does paint a nice mental picture of the paranoia this party is enjoying, however.

    January 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. liberal media

    CNN (Liberal Media) is going to do anything to destroy this threat (Palin). But they're not destroying her. They're only helping her.

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Gina

    I have no problem believing problem believing this – anyone who frequently says "also too" is clearly an idiot.

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Pam

    I'm still trying to figure out WHY this woman is STILL bothering us. She ruined McCain's political career, she is a vapid brainless bimbo who has no business runining anything (not even a household).

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. RAD

    Well they certainly got what they feared didn't they

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. John E Lexington KY

    O'Palin should be ignored to death. She should end up on Trump's show like the Illinois ex-governor fellow joke. Of course she is representation of her party, which has all the gravity of a novelty toy.

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Eric

    Really? I mean I don't lean right or left when it comes to politics, I truly could care less. With that said, I shook my head last year when the dust settled and the best my country could produce for POTUS and Veep was McCain/Palin vs Obama/Biden. Fortunately for me I was deployed and the Army messed up getting me an absentee ballot. We really have become a shell of what our founding fathers envisioned for the future.

    January 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Steve Lehmann

    Give it a rest, already!
    Mr. Mooney, why are you so enamored with/ intimidated by this woman, Sarah Palin. Why do you feel this need to bury her? You and CNN are making fools of yourselves. Let it go.

    January 8, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. Larry

    She is the future leader of the Republican party. She doesn't have to bright, she just has to listen to Rush, Sean and Glenn.

    January 8, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Todd

    Watch the SNL version. It really gets the essence of it. She didn't fall down or throw up, so they called it a draw. What a rube.

    January 8, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. B

    So much for McCains judgement... Thank God that those two are not running things now !!

    Steel is yet another..

    January 8, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Ruth

    I think you mean Sen. Biden – not O'Biden.

    January 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. Chris

    Too funny. "Joseph O'Biden, that bonny gentleman from the Highlands of Vermont..."

    Joe destroyed Sarah in the debate, though I will say that in terms of obfuscation, Palin blew O'Biden out of the O'Water. She sidestepped questions like a steroid freak in front of Congress.

    January 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    Well with the IQ of a toad what would one expect out of palin.

    January 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Ace Frehley

    Wow, the entire midwest and all of the other conservatives think this is the new champion of their party. Perhaps they should go back to taking peoples orders in the drive-thru.
    I saw her book at Border's but I didnt buy it cause my kids already have coloring books. How many years and schools did it take her to get a BA? Did she actually graduate?
    You pathetic FAUX opinion watchers, go back to your American Idol lifestyle and leave the thinking to your betters.

    January 8, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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