When Steve Schmidt, campaign manager for Sen. John McCain‘s (Ariz.) presidential bid, said late last week that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 would be “catastrophic” for the party, he set off another in a series of skirmishes between the pro and anti-Palin camps within the GOP.
On the anti-Palin side came a tweet from Mike Murphy, a Republican media consultant and a past adviser to McCain. “Steve Schmidt correct about Sarah Palin and ’12,” wrote Murphy. “Shame he didn’t feel same way a year ago when he was lobbying McCain to choose her as VP.”
And on Monday, John Weaver, McCain’s closest political adviser for much of the past decade, said that he was nearly certain that the former governor would never be the Republican nominee and added that, if she was, “it would surely mean a political apocalypse is upon us.”
Schmidt’s comments also brought out the pro-Palin forces.
John Coale, a Democrat and personal friend to the governor, insisted that Schmidt “couldn’t stand Sarah from day one” and alleged that Schmidt and “his people” had “screwed up the ABC and CBS interviews.”
Charlie Black, a close adviser to McCain during the 2008 campaign and a lobbyist based in Washington, was less confrontational about Schmidt’s comments but did note that the criticism of the former governor “reminds me of the things some Republicans said about [Ronald] Reagan in 1977.”
This latest incident highlights the chasm that has formed within the Republican party over who Palin is, what she means to the party and where she is headed. The chasm has only grown wider in the wake of the 2008 presidential campaign as both her supporters and detractors have grown increasingly bold in offering their candid assessments about her (and each other) in the media.
Palin’s memoir of the 2008 campaign — entitled “ Going Rogue” and due on bookshelves on Nov. 17 — is sure to inflame both sides of that divide. Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for Palin, declined to comment on the back and forth between Schmidt, Coale and others saying simply: “The Governor will write about all of this in her book. There will be plenty of time to talk about it then.”
All of the attention that Schmidt’s comments have attracted is yet more evidence of the fact that Palin is a — if not the — prime mover in the Republican party. If she does ultimately run for president (and there are strong arguments to be made on each side), it’s almost certain the the race would boil down to Palin and a single candidate — former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty etc — who would become the rallying point for the anti-Palin forces.
Until then, the forces who support her and those that oppose her will continue to reinforce their positions — a process that could turn the 2012 presidential nominating fight into one of the most memorable in history.
The Washington Post