In her new book, former Alaska Gov.. Sarah Palin describes the push-and-pull between John McCain's campaign headquarters and her plucky "B" team on the road. As Palin recounts it, her natural instincts to reach real voters and reach out to the press were frequently foiled by an overprotective senior staff, led by strategist Steve Schmidt, that did not trust her.
Palin acknowledges "going rogue" at points - but usually to positive effect, such as the time she rewrote a speech to special needs children or her wondering out loud about "why I was prohibited from calling the other ticket out on more of its strange associations."
At one point, Palin criticizes the campaign for forcing her to spend too much time glad-handing donors and local elected officials. "Why couldn't we focus more attention on the everyday folks who attended our rallies," she asks.
Interviews with staff, and e-mails obtained from a former McCain
campaign aide and confirmed as authentic by several recipients, add
some layers to Palin's description of life on the road.
the campaign came to a climax in October, Palin isolated herself from
headquarters, refusing to communicate with them directly. Her staff,
suspicious that McCain's retinue of lieutenants were trying to sabotage
Palin simply because she was Palin, began to skirmish with McCain's
staff, bollixing up
carefully planned events. At the same time, it seems clear that
McCain's senior staff evinced little sympathy for how tough a 24/7
presidential campaign can be on a mom with a day job.
reached a boil on Wednesday, October 15, the start of a two-day trip to
New Hampshire. Scheduled events that day included a radio call in to a
national conservative talk show host, Mike Gallagher, at least two
local print interviews, a one-on-one TV interview with Manchester's
WMUR-TV, a rally in Laconia, an "off the record" event in Concord. A
rally in Salem capped off the evening. Then Palin would retire to a
hotel in Manchester to watch McCain debate Barack Obama.
would wake up that morning in New York. A few days before the trip,
Palin decided that she wanted to slough off some of the local
interviews and spend the morning cooking with Rachel Ray, the host of a
popular syndicated television program.
She instructed a top aide to inform headquarters that the Dover rally would have to be canceled.
The response from McCain's headquarters was firm: absolutely not.
"She says she wanted interviews [with the press], but pushed back against the interviews that were
scheduled," a campaign aide who worked with Palin said.
Palin's advance team arrived to plan the events with New Hampshire
campaign staff, shouting matches arose. Palin's team balked at
allowing former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci to shake Palin's
hand as she exited the campaign bus. A Palin advance staffer
interrogated one of the campaign's senior political officials about
Cellucci's intentions; three rounds of "permissions" later, and
Cellucci was finally allowed to have his handshake. In Palin's
defense, her plane was 45 minutes late in arriving to New Hampshire,
which compacted the schedule. Accounts differ as to whether the delay
was caused by a scheduling snafu from headquarters.
top campaign planner e-mailed headquarters: " We worked for many days
on the programs taking into consideration all the political
implications and working with advance to get everything flowing
smoothly. Then, at literally the last minute, for 3 of the 4 events,
someone with some apparent authority calls our advance on the ground
and fucks everything up."
That someone was
identified as Jason Recher, Palin's head of advance, a ten-year veteran
of the Bush political operation who had become increasingly loyal to
his new charge. In her book, Palin lavishes praise on Recher.
wasn't fond of letting outsiders on her campaign bus, and Recher
reportedly vetoed a ride-along with Schonda Schilling, the wife of
Boston Red Sox player Curt Schilling. Carla Eudy, the campaign's chief
fundraiser, had added Schilling on the passenger manifest for the ride
from Laconia to Salem. But at the last minute, Schilling was told that
she wouldn't be able to ride the bus and had to find her own
transpiration to Salem.
At that night's "off the
record" event in Concord, the campaign prepared for a normal sized
crowd to hang with Palin in a shoe store. The television visuals would
be cute - an acknowledgement of the shoe-leather life of a candidate.
But a half before Palin was scheduled to arrive, an advance staffer
called ahead, panicked, and demanded that the field staff find more
people to show up. McCain aides had to borrow from a nearby phone bank
and managed to fill the store with ten minutes to spare. The OTR had
turned into a campaign event.
so far resulted in pissing off two United States Senators and the
creation of a total cluster which has reflected very poorly on the
campaign," was how one staffer contemporaneously described it.
Recher, in an interview, described the chronology as false.
the e-mails and the attempts by McCain advisers to rebut Palin's
account of the campaign, said Recher: "Maybe the McCain aides would
have been better served trying to get McCain's positive message out and
less time clustering away e-mails like squirrels before winter
This anonymousness... is not in the John McCain spirit."
notes that Palin requested from the campaign a certain amount of down
time each day to tend to her children or to the business or her day job
as Governor of Alaska. That day, the "down time" was coincident with
the motorcades to and from Salem, New Hampshire. "She wanted to be
respectful to her hosts, but she also wanted to focus on her job as
governor, because it was in John McCain's interest for her to do well
in that job," Recher said.
As for the
"OTR" at the shoe store, Recher said the entire account was fabricated.
"The notion that I would call to assemble a crowd at a shoe store is
false," he said.
By late October, Palin and headquarters staff were communicating through intermediates.
On October 26, after a long day of stumping in North Carolina, Palin issued an edict to her traveling staff.
were informed today that she no longer wishes to do talk radio
interviews in the car. It's too distracting," wrote a senior Palin
adviser, in an e-mail to senior headquarters staffers. "We were
informed today that she no longer wishes to do TV or print interviews
post-rally. She's drained. We were informed of her displeasure that
her host and US Senator Richard Burr was allowed to ride the [Straight
Talk Express II] with her. "
He ended the e-mail: "I don't know what else to tell you."