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McCain Aides Blame Palin, Not Themselves

Wednesday, 05 Nov 2008 07:30 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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John McCain took full responsibility for the GOP loss Tuesday night, but there was plenty of grumbling by his top aides Wednesday morning that vice presidential pick Sarah Palin caused his defeat.

Talk radio was reeling over the GOP loss of the White House and Democratic success in the House and Senate.

Their target was not so much Obama — but the woeful campaign they said John McCain had run and how blatantly biased the media has been.

Liberal bloggers seized on the raw feelings about Palin among McCain campaign insiders.

Cityfile New York reported that Palin wanted very much to speak during McCain’s concession speech Tuesday night, but staffers shot down her request.

So bitter are some members of McCain’s inner circle that they are trying to get even with Palin and ruin her chances for salvaging her political future.

Several former “top advisers” to McCain, for example, are speaking with Newsweek about Palin’s clothing spending spree — now saying the infamous shopping expeditions for her entire family were even more outrageous than previously reported, notes Cityfile.

But the McCain campaign failed to turn the clothes issue into positive spin: Palin was an "average Jane" who wasn't a millionaire like the Obamas.

From the minute Palin joined the campaign, she energized a Republican base that was dissatisfied by McCain. She became an overnight fundraising sensation and drew record crowds to Republican events.

It was reported that, when McCain needed to draw a large crowd, he would make sure Palin was with him.

After a pathetic campaign without focus or toughness against the Democratic opponent, it seems natural that top McCain aides would turn their fury on conservative Palin, considered the country's most popular governor.

After joining the ticket, Palin had catapulted McCain ahead of Obama in the polls by mid-September. Palin played a large role in his success. Soon, the mainstream media targeted her with a withering series of attack articles. The AP alone often posted two or three negative Palin stories a day.

Palin's favorability among independent voters plummeted and she apparently lost her luster with McCain's inner circle.

Criticism of her deflected the real missteps McCain was making, including his spasmodic response to the financial crisis that gripped the nation. McCain, a self-proclaimed maverick, quickly embraced Washington's bailout of Wall Street.

Despite the multiple fumbles, McCain aides remain fixated on Palin's wardrobe. One upset aide characterized the spree as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast,” adding that the truth will come out eventually when the Republican Party audits its books.

Reports first surfaced in late October that certain McCain insiders were poised to sacrifice Palin in the event of a McCain loss.

“These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves,” a McCain insider told Politico, referring to McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, and to Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush aide who took a lead role in Palin’s campaign.

“A number of Governor Palin’s staff have not had her best interests at heart, and they have not had the campaign's best interests at heart,” the McCain insider said.

Wallace, on the record at least, declined to knock Palin in the final weeks.

But other McCain aides were quick to condemn Plain as simply unready: “green,” sloppy, and “incomprehensibly willing” to criticize McCain.

McCain for his part played the part of retired Navy captain and adopted the inflexible military tradition that the commander — not his troops or even his executive officer — alone accepts blame for losing.

“We fell short. The failure is mine not yours,” McCain said in his concession speech to the faithful Tuesday night.

After expressing gratitude to his family and supporters, McCain thanked his running mate who was present on the stage, calling her “one of the best campaigners I have ever seen.”

McCain dubbed Palin nothing less than an “impressive new voice” in the Republican Party. “We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.”

Sarah Palin demonstrated real charisma and will remain a force in the GOP for years to come.

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