Who Failed Upwards Better: Sarah Palin or Steve Schmidt?

Steve Schmidt is the guy everyone blames -- himself included -- for convincing Sen. John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.

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Steve Schmidt is the guy everyone blames -- himself included -- for convincing Sen. John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. And yet, miraculously, The New York Times' Adam Nagourney writes, Schmidt has been rehabilitated, having "settled into a lucrative and prominent existence that suggests he is the beneficiary of the kind of political resurrection Mr. Schmidt might have orchestrated for a beleaguered public figure." Even so, it feels like Schmidt will never be completely untangled from Palin. Both may have failed in 2008, but who has been better at failing upwards since then?

Sarah Palin

Cable paycheck: Palin has a Fox News contract worth $1 million a year, though Roger Ailes has hinted it might not be renewed when it's up in 2013.
Palatial hideaway: Palin's lakeside house in Wasilla is pictured at left. (Photo via Associated Press.)
Post-2008 style update: Palin is still wearing her signature bangs and glasses. But she's developed an unsettling taste for art teacher-style enormous earrings, as seen above.
Celebrity friends: There aren't many conservative celebrities in Hollywood, and it's hard winning over the liberal ones if you don't show a little ambivalence toward the Republican party. For a while, Palin was pals with The View's Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But no more, Popeater reported a year ago. A Hasselbeck pal told the site, "I think Elisabeth is a good friend. She remembers birthdays and even with a busy schedule always takes time to stay in touch with her girlfriends… But Sarah has let her down. Elisabeth has reached out to her several times but she never responds."
Number of films: So many. Palin has been the subject of the reality show Sarah Palin's Alaska, the pro-Palin biopic The Undefeated, the anti-Palin biopic Sarah Palin: You Betcha!. She's appeared on Mall Cops, and Dancing With the Stars, and American Chopper.
Treatment in film: Not so nice. She was portrayed as an empty-headed crazy person in Game Change and many, many, many other times on TV.

Steve Schmidt

Cable paycheck: Schmidt is a contributor to MSNBC, which thinks so highly of his opinion the cable network has installed a remote camera in his house.
Palatial hideaway: "A baseball cap perched on his head, his eyes sheathed in sunglasses, Steve Schmidt sipped a Diet Coke and gazed across Lake Tahoe to California. Even in this most calming of places — the glassine lake ringed by snow-dusted mountains, the late-morning quiet — Mr. Schmidt seemed slightly coiled. This resort town is his home, 2,500 miles from Washington, D.C," Nagourney writes.
Post-2008 style update: Per Nagourney, again: "His head is shaved clean and he has a salt-and-pepper goatee. His hair, he said, went completely gray while working for Mr. McCain."
Celebrity friends: Woody Harrelson, who played Schmidt in Game Change, thinks of him as a friend. The actor explained, “We went everywhere together... We would be at a party, and people would say to me, ‘You know the guy you played is over there.’ And I was like ‘Yeah, I know. I came with him.’ At this point, I feel quite fond of him."
Number of films: Schmidt's main media presence appears to have been in Game Change, though he's been interviewed extensively.
Treatment in film: Very favorable.
If the point of being rich and powerful is to hang out with fancy people, Schmidt wins. If the point is to have hundreds of thousands of fans, it's Palin all the way. They appear to be tied on the fancy dwellings score.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.