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. Dave

    Hilarious. Palin not only doesn't know her opponent's name, she can't even learn it, and has to rely on the opponent to accomodate her shortcomings. Good luck getting enemy countries to cut you that kind of slack if you're ever president!

    Republicans really destroy what little credibility they had with us Independents by being so enthusiastic about this dullard. If they think she's a viable presidential candidate, it gives me reason to question their judgement on EVERYthing. If their logic leads them to THAT conclusion, how can any of their decisions be trusted? They think Democrats "fear" Palin. The only thing to be feared is that, apparently, a significant portion of the American public is foolish enough to not reject such a clown when it's foisted upon them. They like her religious beliefs and that's it; it's enough for them, they don't even care about her competence. Dangerous, dangerous thinking, that.

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. susanj

    Now all you Palin supporters – doesn't that say it all?

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. Alan T.

    Palin was,is and always will be a total mess. She reduces politics to
    the slap stick comedy she is.What a shame it's come to this.

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. pat

    My fellow cool aid drinking Americans scare me. I was a Republican. Many Christian Republicans gloss over the fact that Palin is faking any real knowledge and follow her purely based on her religion. To be a successful Republican candidate these days only takes a few actions.
    1) Criticize Democrats and call them socialists.
    2) Claim that you are a devout Christian.
    3) Publicly cry out against homosexuality, abortion and Illegal aliens.
    What happened to Republican ideals? Small government , lower taxes and leaving people alone. The Christian movement has killed it.

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. love

    Sara Palin sighting – Read this wild story at storyburn dotcom

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Ann Lord

    dumb, dumb, dumb, DUMB....
    already knew it and she can't read either
    didn't know her daughter was having sex
    can see russia from her back yard
    no wonder so many uneducated, rascists think she's HOT, NOT!

    January 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Anthony McMahon

    I can't believe we are still talking about this dip. She's an IDIOT, OKAY? And she's a liar which should raise a lot of red flags about her character not to mention her lack of experience. Leave her to the salmon and the bears of Alaska. She's a moron.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. Bludgeon

    That wouldn't faze her fans a bit. Instead, it would be proof that she was one of them. After all, Bush had been mispronouncing names, never did learn how to say "nuclear," and had the geographical knowledge of a 4th grader. Did that worry his fellow rightwingers? Not a bit. When you think God is on your side, the other guys are, by definition, the evildoers, and that trumps all, including stupendous ignorance.-

    That, in a nutshell, is the rightwing mindset.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. Rhino

    Pallin / Cheney (Liz) 2012. hahahahahahahaha....

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. John Billings Mt

    Dictionary definition: "credibility": the quality or power of inspiring belief ". When will those so enamoured by this entertainer realize that she just doesn't have it...I find it unbelievable that some see her as a potential world leader, in the same league with Hillary Clinton, Indira Ghandi, Golda Mier, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Madeline Albright and so many others...challenges "credibility".

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. mike

    Saying the word 'nuculer' instead of nuclear 5,000 times during the debate didn't exactly do much to make her look brilliant either...

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. michael white

    very funny. I guess she could just call everyone "Bud." That would probably help her with conservatives.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Todd

    Too too funny - can't even get a simple name right. Sounds about correct. She actually had the "gumption" to publish an oped in the WashingtonPost in which she confused local weather with the global climate. She opens her mouth and makes certain that everyone -EVERYONE who has graduated thrid grade knows she is a dope.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. normajean

    With her limited education and lack of intellectual curiosity, Sara Palin is bound to eventually show signs of being in over her head.. This will only continue until she will become yesterdays news. As has been said, she's an interesting personality but without a lot more political savvy, she can only go so far and then hit a brick wall. She's on her way to eventual oblivion.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. katy Heys

    I don't blame Palin for her behavior during the election, I blame McCain for having the poor judgement for choosing her as potential VP.

    Anyone with her poor public service record and even less impressive scholastic achievement(s) had no business being a heartbeat from the Presidency.

    If anyone should take the heat over her behavior, it is John McCain.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |

    This woman needs to crawl into some hole and hide herself. She just goes from one disaster to another. I have never know a governor so dump!

    January 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Dodd Democrat...

    Who cares

    January 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. fletc3her

    She spent the entire debate giving what sounded like rehearsed answers which in some cases bore little resemblance to the question that was actually asked. I doubt any election has turned on the VP debates, but she certainly did not do McCain any favors with her performance.

    January 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. s


    January 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. dick

    for all you socalled experts out their/ stop and listen to your self. palin would make a great president/ let/s face it she could/nt ever be as bad as the zero that we have now. hope she makes all you experts a living H##

    January 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. kard

    May I call you Joe, not can . . . silly advisors.

    January 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. Linda

    If I were the political strategists still trying to get cred back after their disastrous moves, I would shut up while they were just under.

    Everyone know Palin nailed that debate and was soooo good. So now with his whining, to still try to know her down (what, are you on Mitt Romney's payroll now) you are really looking childish.

    Face facts, you sucked and Sarah was the best thing that happened to the campaign and yet, because you were still in charge of the campaign, your efforts were trying to undermine her at every turn.

    You don't belong in your career. It's all about you. The mistake Joe Trippi made for Dem's.

    Sarah is the real deal. Deal with your shortcomings and move along. Thank you.


    January 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. Tom

    Yet at the same time, the McCain and Palin people were insisting to the public that she was qualified and ready to serve as President should she be called to do so.

    January 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Kate

    Hahaha! Always amusing when a new tidbit about this moron surfaces.

    January 8, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. Marc L

    Maybe everything Schmidt is saying is true. Or maybe he is trying to sell a book that really is not that important.

    January 8, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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