Newsweek dishes new dirt on Palin and Nicolle Wallace

Nothing too shocking, but useful background.

Palin was being handled by Nicolle Wallace, a veteran of the hardball politics of the Bush-Cheney campaign (she had been a press-bashing director of communications). Recruited by Schmidt, Wallace had come from a stint as a commentator at CBS. She had the disastrous idea of making Palin available only for a series of high-profile media interviews, and then overprepared her with a cram course of talking points. It was embarrassing to watch Palin grope for answers to Katie Couric’s questions—and thanks to YouTube, more than 10 million voters witnessed it. “She is not a dumb person,” said a senior McCain adviser. “She is an intelligent person, but we made her so uptight.” Some old McCain hands on the campaign were sharply critical of the Bush-Cheney alumni brought onboard by Schmidt. Wallace and the others had not only botched the handling of Palin, in the view of the old McCainiacs; they didn’t understand that McCain needed to be McCain. (Wallace took responsibility, in an edgy kind of way: “I keep trying to get someone to write that it’s my stupid strategy,” she told a NEWSWEEK reporter. “I should be fired. I’ve offered my resignation twice in the spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower, taking responsibility, and no one will take it.” In truth, Wallace was in a tough place: Palin was no longer taking much coaching from her. Feeling that she had been overmanaged for her one-on-one debut with a network anchor—Charlie Gibson of ABC—Palin had rebuffed Wallace’s help with her Couric interview.)…

There was grumbling that Palin had jumped the gun by bringing up Ayers at her rallies before the campaign could properly do the groundwork with a rollout strategy and ads. (At one rally, she had talked about Obama “palling around with terrorists.”) Palin was mad at her handlers. Reportedly, she felt that Wallace and Schmidt had poorly coached and advised her. One adviser later speculated that she impulsively talked about Ayers because she felt thwarted—she had really wanted to bring up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (Actually, Palin was feeling hurt and angry over the tabloid treatment of her 17-year-old daughter Bristol, and decided—on her own—that Ayers should be fair game. McCain’s advisers were working on a strategy that would launch an Ayers attack the following week, but McCain had not signed off on it, and Salter was resisting.)

The campaign’s internal polls showed that those lower-income swing voters in industrial states had not forgotten about Wright. In the view of some of his advisers, McCain had a chance to really hurt Obama by dredging up those videotapes of his longtime pastor crying “Goddam America!” But McCain did not want to. He did not want to do anything that smacked of racism.

An unnamed source who’s probably Randy Scheunemann told Politico two weeks ago that Schmidt and Wallace would end up being the ones trying to tear Palin down. Whether that’s because the source had reason to believe they’d leak or simply because he/she knew there was bad blood between them and Palin and expected some post-campaign sniping, no one except Politico knows. Two months later, though, I’m unclear how Palin was “overprepared” for questions about what periodicals she likes to read or why Russia’s proximity to Alaska enhanced her foreign policy credentials, as she suggested to Charlie Gibson. Those are the questions that killed her, not anything having to do with, say, naming the deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan.

The LA Times has new dirt too, related mainly to the shopping expenses, and unsurprisingly it’s linked (indirectly) to Schmidt, Rick Davis, and Nicolle Wallace. Here’s an interview she did today in four parts with local radio in Alaska. She is, more than ever, a woman in demand.