Mr. Schmidt, who walked the red carpet at the Washington and New York openings of HBO’s “Game Change,” has become a minor celebrity in nonpolitical circles: Mr. Harrelson, in an interview last week, described him as a “buddy” and recounted how he persuaded Mr. Schmidt to be his date to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April, and to the exclusive pre- and after-parties, no matter that the night happened to fall on Mr. Schmidt’s wedding anniversary…

Mr. Schmidt even had lunch in the White House mess with David Plouffe, President Obama’s senior adviser who raves about his politics skills, and had his photograph taken with the president.

“If the Republican Party in 2012 thought more like Steve Schmidt, that would make our job more difficult,” said Mr. Plouffe, who managed Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign…

Mr. Schmidt said he has not spoken with Ms. Palin since the night Mr. McCain conceded. His criticism of her has been a defining theme of his post-2008 years, in contrast to Mr. McCain, who has praised her repeatedly. “If I knew two days before what I knew two days later, I would have handcuffed myself to the truck to prevent him from leaving the compound,” Mr. Schmidt said, recalling the moment that Mr. McCain left to announce his selection. “I guess the evidence of that is the trauma I still have four years later.”

“She absolutely should not be president: no way, no how,” he said. “I’ve watched her on the public stage over the past four years. There has been zero effort — zero — to improve any of her obvious deficiencies.”