Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stirrings of Palin insurgency complicating McCain campaign

The circular firing squad is heading up into the senior levels of the McCain campaign. From the

Even as John McCain and Sarah Palin scramble to close the gap in the final days of the 2008 election, stirrings of a Palin insurgency are complicating the campaign's already-tense internal dynamics.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.

The emergence of a Palin faction comes as Republicans gird for a battle over the future of their party: Some see her as a charismatic, hawkish conservative leader with the potential, still unrealized, to cross over to attract moderate voters. Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated.

"These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves," a McCain insider said, referring to McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, and to Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush aide who has taken a lead role in Palin's campaign. Palin's partisans blame Wallace, in particular, for Palin's avoiding of the media for days and then giving a high-stakes interview to CBS News' Katie Couric, the sometimes painful content of which the campaign allowed to be parceled out over a week.

It is now no longer about the election in the McCain campaign. Baring some unforseen, or unexpected event within the next ten days, Republican senator John McCain will more than likely lose the presidential election to Democratic senator Barack Obama. The latest Yahoo electoral map shows Obama ahead in states with a projected 355 electoral votes over McCain's 156. And now, the McCain staffers are starting to blame each other for the potential McCain loss here. And what is even more interesting is that the circular firing squad is moving up to the senior levels of the McCain campaign. We've got Sarah Palin blaming her McCain handlers for botching her VP rollout, while Rovian McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt is preparing to blame Palin for what may have been his own mistakes in conducting the campaign. It is fascinating to watch.

As for Sarah Palin, I think that she may realize that the gig is just about up, and she is positioning herself for the post-election. The story reports that some McCain aids "dismissed the notion that Palin was mishandled," while saying that the Alaska governor was simply "green." According to the

Some McCain aides say they had little choice with a candidate who simply wasn't ready for the national stage, and that Palin didn't forcefully object. Moments that Palin's allies see as triumphs of instinct and authenticity — the Wright suggestion, her objection to the campaign's pulling out of Michigan — they dismiss as Palin's "slips and miscommunications," that is, her own incompetence and evidence of the need for tight scripting.

But Palin partisans say she chafed at the handling.

"The campaign as a whole bought completely into what the Washington media said — that she's completely inexperienced," said a close Palin ally outside the campaign who speaks regularly to the candidate.

"Her strategy was to be trustworthy and a team player during the convention and thereafter, but she felt completely mismanaged and mishandled and ill advised," the person said. "Recently, she's gone from relying on McCain advisers who were assigned to her to relying on her own instincts."

So far, Palin's "instincts" have her opening up to the media, which include interviews on talk radio, cable and broadcast outlets. She has also been chatting with her traveling press and local reporters. The McCain campaign went nuts last Sunday, as Palin strolled over to a local television crew in Colorado Springs:

Reporters really began to notice the change last Sunday, when Palin strolled over to a local television crew in Colorado Springs.

"Get Tracey," a staffer called out, according to The New York Times, summoning spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, who reportedly "tried several times to cut it off with a terse 'Thank you!' in between questions, to no avail." The moment may have caused ulcers in some precincts of the McCain campaign, but it was an account Palin's admirers in Washington cheered.

The only way for Sarah Palin to break out of the McCain campaign's overprotecting security blanket is to start talking to reporters, rather than giving the same stump speeches she's been doing for the past two months. She has already requested to give "meatier policy speeches," especially on energy policy and children with disabilities. This positions herself from becoming the scapegoat for the McCain campaign's possible loss, towards a potential GOP national leader, and a possible 2012 presidential run. But at the same time, Sarah Palin will be facing a serious blame game from senior McCain staffers attempting to place their own failures on the "green" Alaskan governor. The truth here is that there will be plenty of blame on everyone in the McCain campaign to go around.

Update: has some more interesting details regarding Palin's "going rogue." From

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- With 10 days until Election Day, long-brewing tensions between GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin and key aides to Sen. John McCain have become so intense, they are spilling out in public, sources say.

Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin "going rogue."

A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to "bust free" of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.

McCain sources say Palin has gone off-message several times, and they privately wonder whether the incidents were deliberate. They cited an instance in which she labeled robocalls -- recorded messages often used to attack a candidate's opponent -- "irritating" even as the campaign defended their use. Also, they pointed to her telling reporters she disagreed with the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan.

A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

It is interesting that a McCain adviser has started calling Sarah Palin a "diva" who is taking "no advice from anyone." And, of course, all this may be true. The McCain campaign has completely self-destructed, with McCain and Rovian advisers blaming everyone else, except themselves, as a potential Obama president-elect steamrolls them in this last week of campaigning. I'm not surprise that, this late in the game, Sarah Palin would be starting to look out for her own political future, even as she continues going through the motions of campaigning in these final days of the election. And why shouldn't she look out for herself, when Sarah Palin also blames the McCain staffers, and the Rovians, for mishandling her own vice presidential rollout, even as she herself was so completely unqualified for the office anyways?

The circular firing squad continues on.


Chooch said...


Eric A Hopp said...


It is certainly wonderful to hear from you again! Thank you for your comment. You are right--Maverick McCain strikes again! I have just been amazed at how the McCain campaign is consuming itself within this circular firing squad, where each staffer is blaming the other for the faults of the campaign, regardless of who is to blame. It is not longer about electing McCain into office, but rather about some serious CYA and hope you are not too tarnished. And now it appears that the firing squad has moved up to where the McCain campaign and "Diva" Sarah Palin are sniping at each other for McCain's eventual loss. It is just fascinating to watch.

Wonderful to hear from you, and I do enjoy reading your own blog.