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. Cardimom

    Why was she even CONSIDERED for the vice presidency if she cannot even say the words "Senator Biden" accurately? I have to side with Schmidt on this one. It continually puzzles me why there are still so many who consider Palin qualified to run for ANY office, let alone the highest office in the country...or world, even!!!

    January 8, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Sounds like Palin's brain is "miswired" and that is a very dangerous defect. She can't interpret a question which leads to her lack of ability to say something that makes sense. When asked what books/magazines she reads she interpreted the question to be can you read, she called Africa a country not knowing it's a continent, she didn't know the Bush doctrine, can see Russia from her house. Palin may be attractive but don't ask her any questions because it's clear she's gotten by in life over talking people to hide her lack of smarts and gets very defensive in her attempt to coverup.

    January 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. SkiDoc

    Schmidt was a dismal strategist and a major reason for the McCain campaign failure. How convenient to now try to gain respectability by pandering to the anti-Palin media. Just keep drinking the "hope & change" kool-aid, libs. Sarah is going rogue and is going to bring down the sickest administration in history. You betcha!!

    January 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. Donkey Party

    Yet further evidence of McCain knowingly putting the country at risk had he and Palin won. Country first my fat liberal ass!

    January 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. David

    No amount of coaching will ever make Palin anything more than she is:

    a spotlight craving, money-hungry, dimwitted opportunist, adored by many millions of equally very stupid people.

    January 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. I Luv Sara

    ha ha libs your dumb!! when Sara wins in 2010 then who laugh? than we get rid of libs and scientist and teachers and unioin worker!! and what about muslems and mexicans?

    January 8, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. white female

    CNN I am so sick of (Sarah Palin) and you'll reporting on everything she say or do.
    Get a life people and start reporting the news, that people care about in this world.

    January 8, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. T'SAH from Virginia


    She could not be Vice President in 2008 – and she cannot be President in 2012!!! Case and POINT!!!

    January 8, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. Babs

    WELL,,.... he shouldn't have been handling her at all. Naughty you Mr. Schmidt.

    January 8, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  10. Jean

    You go Steve Schmidt. Expose her for the lying fraud she is. Not that the wingnuts will care–as long as she winks at them, they'll do anything she says. Palin is not only a bad governor, she's a bad mother, and a bad person. The trifecta of losers!

    January 8, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. Kevin

    I wish she would just go away!!!!

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. AndyBlue

    We did avoid the "debacle", Palin didnt win. Religious wingnuts always turn on the majority.

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. mjm

    McCain's people should have been more focused of HIS debate. He was terrible every time. In fact, the only reason 2008 was even close was because Palin.

    Liberals (and CNN) have been infatuated with Palin even more than conservatives. Despite the hate posted here today, she isn't going anywhere. Liberals on the other hand, gone in 10 months.

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. Bob in Pa

    McCains aides are typical political people handlers. Make them look like something they aren't, fool the publlic. I like Sarah, she is what she is. But I guess in politics, fooling the people is what works best, look how well it worked for Obama.

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  15. Edged25

    i watched the debate,myself i thought she was terrific and actually won.Sarah palin gets stronger every day .I know when she is left to her own her own devices and not over managed she is unstopable.She doesn't need a teleprompter and her ideas most closely follow mine.I hope she becomes president in 2012

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  16. Mathew

    I would have feared an epic Palin debacle too....Palin couldn't even answer a simple question like "what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read?"

    January 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Jim

    I believe Schmidt on this one. I don't see what people like about her. I prefer candidates that can speak the English language.

    January 8, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. asdf

    How lame is the argument of accusing someone of "mishandling" you. Basically you are saying I am not capable of projecting a positive image on my own and I needed you to be a miracle worker at spin so that I look capable and you failed. I swear Tina Fey works behind the scenes to keep Palin relevant as she is a career goldmine.

    January 8, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. Robert - Florida

    Why didn't they just smear peanut butter in Sarah Palin's mouth like they did for Mr. Ed?

    January 8, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. amy

    If only misstating Sen. Biden's name was the worst she could do! What a colossal moron this woman is. And to make the accusation that she was "mishandled" is downright laughable. She takes no responsibility whatsoever for her own ignorance and yet would be the first to claim credit if she ever actually got something right (hard to imagine such a scenario). I am appalled to think that in the USA, an imbecile such as this is touted as any sort of an example of a leader.

    January 8, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    this puts the icing on the gop cake ,, what a joke Palin has taken the GOP to a new low .. LOL makes me wonder why she has held on so long to her dip stick ideas the woman is a menase to the human race .. 🙂

    January 8, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  22. cfrench

    O'Biden. That's just too funny, and totally believable.

    Democrats, liberals, moderates and independants hope, no, make that pray, that Palin is atop the republican presidential ticket in 2012. Sarah Palin is without a doubt the most unqualified candidate for vice president or president ever put forth by any political party, and don't give me that "she ran a state and Obama was only a community organizer" crap. Obama is an intellectual, Sarah Palin is, at best, qualified to do President Obama's laundry. She makes Dan Quayle and George Bush look like rocket scientists.

    January 8, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. vicki

    Steve Schmidt is just sour because Palin wouldn't be controlled by him Get over it , Steve.

    January 8, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  24. Mike Corpus Christi Texas

    Sarah Palin couldn't debate her way out of a paper bag. Talk about your empty pant suit.

    January 8, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  25. VON BISMARK -Vienna

    Mr Schmidt is alot to block Palin's bid for the Presidency. The QUEEN OF DEATH PANELS may include him in the list of the death by Obamacare.

    January 8, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
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