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. Peter Green

    Only the extremely ignorant and gullible could ever think that Sarah Palin was presidential material. If the GOP ever runs her for national office again, the party will suffer; if she somehow wins, the entire nation will suffer. Thank God her 15 minutes are about up!

    Isn't it about time for the GOP to rid itself of the thugs, liars, fakers, idiots, dividers and incompetents (we all know who they are, and there are many), and start rebuilding itself back into the honest, intelligent, competent conservative Grand Old Republican Party we used to love? The Dems are truly incompetent, so the GOP could rule American politics for decades if they'd only have enough courage to rid themselves of the arrogant, ignorant liars that currently seem to represent the party. People like Cheney and Palin might thrill a few gullible far-right wingnuts, but they turn most American AWAY from the GOP.

    January 8, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |

    Why am I not surprised or shocked to hear this?

    January 8, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. JD

    What a clown this lady is. Please, please Republicans, nominate her in 2012. So we can watch Obama dismantle her, over and over and over again.

    January 8, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  4. Bob

    So who vetted Palin to be the VP candidate? Campaign Chief of Staff now "openly questioned [her] viability to be opresident," but it was OK to be the veep. Did anyone bother to talk to her before she was selected?

    January 8, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Ted from Calif.

    Must be a slow news day to warrant all the Palin coverage.

    January 8, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. Lin from Arkansas

    "Just say, Can I call you Joe?"

    It's awesome to know that she only asked that question because she lacked the capacity to say the phrase "Senator Biden."

    She's such a genius......

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Jeff W.

    Just additional evidence that Palin is a very dumb person. The fact that she has supporters baffles me.

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Doug

    It's so sad that this broad still has followers after all has been said and done...No wonder people hate Americans in some parts of the world..
    How could we as a society be consumed with this Monster...
    America when are we gonna get our heads out the clouds....
    Religion and State = Big problems...All you have to do is look at the Middle East!
    WAKE UP!

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. Bruce from Anchorage

    Once again our little princess Sarah blames others for her short comings. Shes akin to a hollywood set-looks real from the front-but take a peek behind and you'll see it's a fake

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  10. nick

    Even GOPer's know that she is an idiot!

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. Paul from Phoenix

    This is why i won't vote for McCain. Anyone in Arizona knows how bitter he is. If you cross him, he sends the dogs to get you. He has ruined many people's careers in AZ politics because the had a "difference of opinion" with him.

    He has done more to damage Palin then any democrat could, when in reality he lost because HE ran a poor campaign. But he refuses to accept that, so he decided to blame her and destroy her. I hope we dump McCain this year.

    He is such a crusty, old, angry man.

    January 8, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. I wish I was Just Like My Hero Sarah

    There you go again, pointing the finger backwards. Say it ain't so, O'Joe.

    January 8, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. j

    Just letting Palin open her mouth is a catastrophe. Nothing but garbage comes out.

    January 8, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. ravi dev

    Palin is not the brightest star.. but good for her neocon handlers.
    She is another G W Bush...She simply is not that bright.

    January 8, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Mac

    uggggg, more Palin talk??? Let's get all those book deals out there and completed so we don't have to listen/read more of this silly stuff!!!

    January 8, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. Chad

    Thank god she is not our VP.

    January 8, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. Jacob

    they couldn't manage a campaign, but they thought they were fit to manage the nation?

    January 8, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. Jerry

    It sounds to me that Steve Schmidt is still suffering from a severe case of sour grapes over mismanaging the McCain campaign. Otherwise, he wouldn't continually be breaking Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment "Thou shall not speak badly about a fellow Republican". When you trashmouth your candidate's running mate, you denegrate the entire ticket and the entire party. Why? Just so you could say "It's not my fault that we lost." Sorry, that just doesn't fly. Do you really want so badly to cover your own backside that you are willing to give the liberal Democrats who are "tax and spending" this country into ruin a better chance of continuing the process. Just put a sock in it and get on with the process about winning back the American people and fixing the mess that liberals and their corrupt vote-buyng schemes have made of this country.

    January 8, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  19. DALE

    You know, I can't stand this woman, but who amoung us has not been in a situation when no matter what we did we couldn't get a word to come out correctly. She just may have more of them. I think it would have been funny and they should have let her go. Maybe just maybe she could have pulled it off. I thought the "Can I call you Joe" statement was a bigger turn off and looked totally fake, now I know the truth and it was.

    January 8, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. RG


    January 8, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Miss Vickey

    Since when is an intellectually deficient twit, who rambles incoherent gibberish; that is when she is not reading from her colored-coded 3 x 5 (talking points) cards, fit to be POTUS anyhow?

    And, let's even give the quitter the benefit of a doubt on her money-grubbing, unethical, trailer park lifestyle. And, let's put aside her poorly contrived hockey mom, meat eating, gun-toting self-styled image she has crafted. How is this tweeting twit qualified? Because she is a conservative? That is her only qualification??

    January 8, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. tenplay

    It seems to me that McCain's strange choice of adding a "dumb blond" to his ticket was his smart way of bowing out of the race while saving face. After the long rigorous primary season, he realized that he really did not want to take on the terrible problems left by Bush/Cheney and be under constant public scrutiny and criticism. His flagging energy and crankiness associated with his advanced years were also becoming problematic. He wanted to continue his more comfortable and familiar role as sideline kibitzer and "free-lancing" Republican, whicn enabled him to enjoy all the perks of high government without the huge pressures and expectations of the presidency. So he chose the totally inept and controversial Palin to ensure his defeat with the only long-term criticism of him being his unfortunate choice of VP candidate.

    January 8, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. dickson

    God help us if she ever is President....

    January 8, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  24. Incredulous

    If Palin's only foible was screwing up Joe Biden's name that would be OK. I mean her handlers did it right, just keep her focused on something simple like "Joe" and away from the multi-syllabic "Biden."

    But the bottom line is that she is: (1) a quitter, (2) a divider not a uniter, (3) not there for her own family, (4) not capable of working with the legistaltive branch of Alaska, let alone the U.S. and (5) not leadership material.

    Referring back to a very recent story about Senator McCain's new campaign ads, isn't it odd that Senator McCain did not have a campaign ad patting himself on the back for pulling Palin from obscurity and putting her before the American people?

    January 8, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. CF

    What a dunce. I still can't believe there is anybody of adult intelligence who thinks she would be fit in any way to run the country.

    January 8, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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