Categorized | Commentary/Editorial

Why I’m Still Mad About 2008

As Whitney has already noted in her excellent piece, today marks the three-year-anniversary of John McCain selecting Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

I know politics isn’t fair … And I know looking backward doesn’t do much good. (We can’t change the past.) But I gotta tell ya … 2008 still bugs the crap out of me.

And any Republican or Independent out there who won’t support Sarah Palin in 2012 because of her so-called “failed” 2008 VP campaign needs to know the degree to which those failures and perceived “baggage” belong squarely to John McCain and his team.

Blaming Sarah Palin for blowing it in 2008, is like blaming your dog for not meowing loud enough.

Meanwhile, Team McCain’s screw ups and deliberate defamation, shredded the reputation of a dynamic conservative female leader whom Newsweek had hailed in 2007 as a “pragmatic, post-partisan reformer.”

It should be clear to most honest people that Sarah Palin never received the credit she deserved for what she actually provided the McCain campaign – a fundraising explosion, unprecedented tv viewership for her RNC speech, and gargantuan crowds that no Republican presidential ticket had ever seen before, nor will likely ever see again outside of a Palin campaign.

Moreover, she campaigned her heart out. She delivered every speech with gusto, praised McCain sincerely, endorsed him as trustworthy leader, and was an absolute dynamo on the campaign trail. She worked tirelessly and did what was asked of her. In the last few frantic days of the campaign she criss-crossed the country hitting every swing state, before making two exhausting long flights, one back to Alaska to vote and the other to Arizona for what was to be the painful concession.

Even McCain campaign senior advisor Steve Schmidt grudgingly admitted that Palin helped the ticket. Amidst his unproven insults about her lack of preparation, he acknowledged that they never would have led in the polls for even “one second” without Sarah Palin, as they did for nearly a week by seven points shortly after her announcement – until the Lehman Brothers collapse.

"I believe, had she not been on the ticket our margin of defeat would’ve been greater than it would’ve been otherwise," he said.

Even pundit Dick Morris credited Palin for giving McCain an edge with women voters:

Compared to 2004, McCain lost 11 points among white men according to the Fox News exit poll but only 4 points among white women. Barack Obama’s underperformance among white women, evident throughout the fall, may be chalked up, in large part, to the influence of Palin. She provided a rallying point for women who saw their political agenda in terms larger than abortion. She addressed the question of what it is like to be a working mother in today’s economy and society, and resonated with tens of millions of white women who have not responded to the more traditional, and liberal, advocates for their gender.

And 69% of GOP voters polled immediately after the election believed Palin helped the ticket.

But these acknowledgments were never headlines in 2008. The headlines blamed Palin for costing McCain the election. It was truly mind-boggling: Since when are VP picks expected to win the election for their running mates? And when are they ever counted as the sole reason for a losing campaign? Did Lieberman get blamed for the Gore defeat? Or Edwards for blowing it for Kerry?

Instead, everyone, including the Obama campaign, the news media, and the public seemed to treat Palin like the presidential nominee … when she had no operational control over the campaign, little say in her media schedule, and nothing whatsoever to do with her so-called “extravagant” attire. Her wardrobe was purchased by a New York stylist hired by the McCains to “class up” the middle-class Palins. Naturally Gov. Palin was blamed for that as well.

I thought it was telling this year when Palin headlined the India Today Conclave in New Dehli, and was asked: “Why didn’t American voters perceive you as the real ‘hope and change’ in 2008? Couldn’t you have been the hope and change?”

Palin’s hair-trigger response was spot on: “I wasn’t on the top of the ticket.”

Um, yeah. Do people not remember that? Indeed, in case anyone forgot due to the constant comparisons with Obama, Palin was running for VP, remember? And she was running for VP in a very flawed campaign.

Shall we recall what really happened in 2008?

1. Botched rollout

John McCain essentially wrapped up the lackluster Republican nomination in February 2008 after Super Tuesday. From February 14 to Aug. 29, his team had more than six months to select a running mate, and to prepare a strategy for rolling out their non-conventional pick to the nation. (We know from later accounts he was dead set on picking Joe Lieberman until the last minute when they settled on Palin, whom he had met back in February). McCain waited until Aug. 26th to call Gov. Palin to invite her to Arizona to offer her the VP spot. She had been vetted by A.B. Culvahouse and his team of lawyers, and would be given one more three-hour interview on the evening of the 27th. The next day McCain extended the formal invitation. From the time she was offered the job on Aug. 28th to the announcement speech in Dayton, Ohio on the 29th, she had less than 24 hours to prepare for a national campaign, and had no idea her reputation was about to be turned into mincemeat. She had just finished work on the AGIA awarding process, and was riding high in Alaska. She had massive bi-partisan accomplishments that Obama could never even dream of.

And yet even before Palin delivered her RNC address, Katie Couric was caught on tape mocking her from the get go:

Did you hear anything about Palin’s accomplishments in that raw video? It was all about her children’s "weird" names, what Sarah Palin did in high school, her beauty pageant participation, hunting, basketball, and her penchant for eating moose burgers. Nothing about negotiating the largest private infrastructure project in North American history. Nothing about bi-partisan ethics reform. Nothing about her well-documented history as a reformer in Alaska nor her stellar fiscal record.

Of course, it didn’t help that McCain’s people apparently didn’t know much about Palin either. They were Googling information about her, and calling her staff in Alaska to find out more details about the accomplished woman they’d selected for their campaign. While they had vetted Palin thoroughly down to the last council vote she ever cast, their preparation for quickly responding to media requests about her was a complete disaster.

It also was disastrous when the introductory video they planned to show at the convention prior to Palin’s speech was scrapped at the last moment due to Rudy Giuliani’s talk going too long. So while Palin delivered an excellent speech that was even hailed by her critics, the public was not given the full introduction that could have provided more context for why she was chosen as a VP nominee. And sadly, many people to this day know nothing about Gov. Palin’s real record of accomplishment.

2. Wrong-headed media strategy

But if the botched roll-out had been the only problem, that would have been a blessing. Things got worse. After keeping Palin sequestered for nearly 10 days after her rollout, the McCain camp “eased” her into the national limelight with two pressure-packed-all-or-nothing taped interviews with known liberals Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. Nicolle Wallace personally walked Gov. Palin into the “Lion’s Den” with the series of lengthy interviews with Katie Couric that seemed to be a turning point in public perception about Governor Palin. The total aired footage constituted about 20 minutes out of a six-hour interview. And it was skillfully edited to reveal only what Couric wanted to reveal.

I’ve often thought about the now infamous “What newspapers do you read?” question that everyone cites as evidence of Palin’s stupidity. You see, I, like millions of people around the world, don’t subscribe to newspapers or magazines anymore. I read “all of them” through news aggregation sites like Facebook, Drudge Report, Fox Nation, Hot Air, Newsbusters, Twitter and even Conservatives4Palin. I pull all the headlines up daily on my smart phone.

Aside from being slightly condescending, Couric’s question was hopelessly dated, given that we know people receive their news online and through Twitter accounts. Governor Palin also had been written up and quoted in several oil and gas publications that Couric could have possibly researched had she been an actual reporter, instead of a deeply-placed Democrat operative.

Should Palin have told Couric what she actually reads? (She later told Barbara Walters she reads Newsmax, the Wall Street Journal and all her local Alaska papers.) Sure, maybe, but perhaps in a six-hour interview where Couric hadn’t bothered to research Gov. Palin’s actual record, Palin simply gave her the proverbial finger on that question. She later said she was simply irritated with Couric.

(Apparently Couric irritated her own viewers as well, as she consistently ranked dead last among the three evening news programs, and was replaced this year as anchor after seeing a 24% drop in viewership from when she started five years earlier.)

What bugged me about the McCain campaign’s media strategy is that they didn’t seem to recognize Palin’s innate media savvy and give her more leeway to use her instincts. Palin’s main job was to win over the base. She should have been interacting with all sorts of local and conservative media. As we saw in her bus tour this summer Palin knows very well how to engage in a charming and effective way with members of the press.

3. Blame casting

As if botching the rollout and completely screwing up the media strategy weren’t enough, members of the McCain camp decided to make Palin the scapegoat for the election loss. The Obama media were still drunk with Obama-victory joy when Wallace and others began their post-defeat smear campaign of Gov. Palin. They leaked false rumors about the Governor answering the hotel door in a bath robe, not knowing the difference between a country and a continent, and other complete tall tales that were never corroborated.

I will never forget the gleeful look on Carl Cameron’s face as he reported all these lies from “unnamed” sources. I cannot to this day forgive him for it. It was a putrid example of media character assasination.

I guess many of us learned the brutal reality about politics in 2008 … it’s not pretty. It’s not fair. And more often than not, honest and unsuspecting folks get steamrolled.

Was Governor Palin perfect? Of course not. Who is? But did she perform admirably under the circumstances where she was a running mate, not the "main event"? Was she an asset to the campaign? Most definitely.

There is only one thing that will make up for the 2008 angst that I continue to feel to this day. And that is to see Governor Palin run for president in her own right in 2012, and show the world the capable, intelligent, honest, and hard-working person she really is.

And I expect that without the shackles of an incompetent and mean-spirited campaign around her neck, she’ll do just that.


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  • Doc Yeager

    It’s a New Day!

    Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those which are before. Thank God she is not having to stand in the shadow of McCain or any other rhinos. She’s standing on her own platform.

     I can see the wind blowing her hair and her dress, as the American Flag fly’s behind her. Her voice as tender as velvet, and yet as earthshaking as thunder. Multitudes standing before her, with the American flags in their hands. Shouts of agreement roll across the valley.

    The lame streeam media quivering in their political correct shoes. Liberal newscasters having heart attacks. Dying before Obama care can help them. Newspaper headlines around the world, in absolute shock that the American people have risen up against the political established machines.

    Our New Day Has Come!

  • M_Minnesota


    Thank you as always for the gift you have been given in exposition!!!  Thank you all that you do for the Guv!!  Wish this piece could be on Big Government!!  Yes 2008 does make me irritated.
    Looking back at that campaign it is like observing a brave Sarah and her family trying to get out of a FunHouse/ Mad house/ Haunted House.  The only way she could communicate to her support outside the Mad House was to surrupticiously (sp)  call on her mobile to Beck and Rush

    • M_Minnesota

      I wish collegepress had given it the "old college try" and gotten (published on you tube) that video of Katie Couric  being smarmy in St. Paul within 48 hours!!

      It would have added new oooomph to her RNC speech which stated "I am not going to Washington to be respected by the Media!!"  If the video had gotten out in time, you may have heard the crowd get on Couric’s case and not just MSLSD/NBC.

      It would have taken the sting effect/perceived of the ambushed Couric interview.

    • Jon

      Nicole — YOU ARE NOT MAD!!!  You’re completely sane and very talented.  We are still ANGRY but we’re not mad.  Thank you for your great writing.

  • votermom

    As a puma, I know all about not getting over it! 
    Which is good because if  we forget then we can’t learn from the past.
    To forgive is possible if the trespassers demonstrate true remorse (fat chance), but to forget? – never.

  • Robert Lambert

    It’s a new day for us all. God Bless the USA.

  • Guest

    Right on Nicole!  You’ve really hit the nail on the head. And I told you I would be back someday!

    • FrankinOhio

      I’ve missed you Patrick, I saved a seat for you (up front) for what is going to be the greatest show on earth!  

    • Nicole Olmstead Coulter

      Welcome BACK!! :)

  • ZH100

    Great read!

    Thanks Nicole

  • Carol Carr

    Amen Nicole!!!

    Palin will rock this country on her own terms, this time! On the TOP of the ticket!

    Palin 2012!

  • Emerson_C

    My recollection while watching the coverage of 2008 in respect of Sarah Palin was that it offended within me a keen sense of justice and roused within me a thirst to see justice done and be seen to be done.  Roll on 2012!

  • Nancy6

    I don’t believe we are saying "even ____________ thinks/says/concedes" anymore.:)

  • mder4thegov

    The problem is, when we let the corrupt, liberal media pick our candidates, we get John McCains. They are trying it now with John Huntsman, who is the elite Democrats’ choice. That tells you all you need to know about Huntsman.
    In 2008 they were terrified of Romney, and made sure he didn’t win…..getting Charlie Crist to endorse McCain in Florida, and having Florida dems register as repubs to vote McCain. They wanted McCain, knowing he’d be easy to beat.
    Sarah did everything humanly possible, with courage and grace…..considering the hand she was dealt.

  • ljmesq

    It had slipped my mind about the decision not to show the introductory video.  I’ve never seen it, so don’t know how good it was.  But it presumably would have provided the public with at least a basic understanding of Sarah’s accomplishments as Governor and in her previous public service positions.  That could have deflected a lot of the media’s later portrayal of the Gov. as a lightweight.  Too much of the public, even today, doesn’t know of Sarah’s actual record of accomplishment in office.  In hindsight, that decision might have been one of the most damaging decisions of the entire campaign.

    • JeannieBinVA

      Very good point. Knowing that 38 million voters had seen it too, at least some media folks might have cleaned up their act a little. 

    • GrmaTX

      Now we have The Undefeated! It needs to be used as that introduction that never happened.  I saw it yesterday and I believe it is a powerful telling of her record.

    • Akabosan  Introduction to Sarah Palin on youtube.  GB

      • ljmesq

        Thank you for the link, Akabosan.  It is amazing that they couldn’t take the 4 minutes necessary to show that video. The RNC was probably too concerned with meeting the LSM’s schedule.  It’s no wonder, we lost in 2008.  The RNC and the McCain campaign leadership were truly inept.

      • JeannieBinVA

        Thank you, Akabosan! That was actually a great video — covered many of the best things about Sarah and her record in a very short piece. What a shame voters en masse didn’t get to see it.  

  • MoiraCrooks

    Nicole – You definitely captured what I was feeling/thinking about the 2008 campaign. While the way the 2008 campaign angered me, as time has passed I have realized that it needed to happen that way for such a moment as this. God always uses our adversity to make His opportunity. He has a perfect plan.

    • ReaganerThanThou

      You know, I’ve felt the same way since about December 2008. At first, I was really angry how the media was able to get away with smearing Sarah the way they did.

      But let’s just say McCain had actually won the presidential election. Would he have been a good president? By the end of his first term, people would be so sick of his leadership that Sarah Palin would pay the price for that if she chose to run for president in 2016. Americans wouldn’t vote for her because they would associate her with a failed administration.

      As far as I’m concerned, both Sarah Palin AND her followers passed a huge test in God’s eyes in November 2008. Would we still continue to trust in Him after the disappointment of losing 2008? You betcha!

  • Nancy6

    That photo of the massive crowd at her rally always gives me goosebumps.
    And those size rallies and larger, will be repeated over and over in the months to come.

  • HopeLessChange

    Yeah. Most of the folks who made that surge possible in 2008, are itchin for a re-match. This time it’s gonna be different. We refuse to take any sucker punches this time, and we’re gonna hit ya preemptively if we have to, don’t matter who or what party.


      Hey, the buttons say "Like "or "Reply". Where is the" love it"  button that your post truly deserves?

  • icenogle

    One of my reasons to see Gov Palin run is to be there when moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents start to say to themselves, "hey, we were told she was stupid and an extreme right-wing radical, but after seeing her in debates and listening to her speechs, she doesn’t sound like that at all, in fact, I agree with her more than I do with Obama or the other Republicans. I was lied to by the Democrats and the media."

  • willegge

    Winston Churchhill said, "no leader comes to true greatness except through great adversity". Governor Palin is heading toward true greatness.

  • Nancy6

    Interestingly, I only reached for my ice pick while reading again about the 2008 campaign.
    I’m coming along.

    Thanks for a great article, Nicole!:)

  • epm54338

    Awesome post! … I also became aware of Gov. Palin via the 2007 Newsweek feature. … The gross imcompetence of the McCain campaign remains breathtaking. … This idiot locks up the nomintion in the spring, has VP hopefulls (minus Palin) to his home for a long weekend in May or June, and Gov. Palin doesn’t get the call until the end of August? … As we can see by her influence and speeches since she left the Gov. office, if Sarah had three or four months to properly prep for the fall campaign things would have been better. … Or do morons Megan McCain, Nicole Wallace. Steve Schmidt and the rest of the backstabbing losers still believe the ticket would have faired better with Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge?

    PALIN 2012!!

    • ljmesq

      The ticket would have fared much better without "Nicole Wallace. Steve Schmidt and the rest of the backstabbing losers".

  • Lori Hodel Buford

    Don’t be mad!  It was meant to happen this way.  When God closes one door, he opens another.  She was always better suited to be on top of the ticket.  Get plenty of rest this week; things are about to get busy!!!

  • Lipstick

    Thanks Nicole. This piece reminds me of the "old days" on C4P with RAM posting kick butt, Palin defense articles. I enjoyed reading it very much!

    • BrianusBerkleianus

      Hi, Lipstick, and Happy Sarah Palin Day to you!!

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