New Book Reveals: Obama Campaign Thought Sarah Palin ‘Thin On Substance,’ Great ‘Performer’


MCCain Veepstakes PalinSarah Palin’s public will have to wait a few more weeks to discover what the former Governor of Alaska has to say about all things Palin, but in the meantime perhaps they can feast upon a few interesting details from David Plouffe’s new book The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory.

Plouffe was Obama’s campaign manager during the 2008 election and judging from the excerpts that have been thus far released, it promises to be an interesting read. One of the tidbits getting a lot of coverage today is the fact that Obama very seriously considered choosing Hillary Clinton for VP before opting for Joe Biden (who apparently launched into a 20 minute monologue during their first meeting).

However, it is this passage about Sarah Palin (in which, Anita Dunn makes a guest appearance!), that caught the eye. Primarily because the Obama team was so silent on the Palin phenomenon while it was happening that it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of what they were thinking at the time, but also because it suggests how they might deal with her going forward as she reinserts herself back in the national conversation. Interestingly, the consensus at the time was that Palin was “clearly not up to this moment…but bound to be a compelling player and a real headliner in the weeks ahead.”

“With the Palin pick, [Senator McCain] had completely undermined his core argument against us. Worse yet for McCain, he would look inherently political in doing so. His strength—and the threat he posed to us—was rooted in the fact that many independent voters believed in his maverick reputation and believed he did not make his decisions by prioritizing politics over what was right. I guessed people would view this choice more as a political stunt than a sound, reasoned call. On our 6:00 a.m. conference call, [campaign adviser] Anita Dunn, who had worked against Palin in Alaska in the 2006 governor’s race, warned us that she was a formidable political talent—clearly not up to this moment, she assured us, but bound to be a compelling player and a real headliner in the weeks ahead. ‘All of you on this call should watch video of her debates and speeches,’ Dunn counseled. ‘The substance is thin, but she’s a very able performer. And her story is out of Hollywood. She’ll be a phenomenon for a while.’ …

“Obama and I had a long talk late that afternoon to evaluate Palin. ‘I just don’t understand how this ends up working out for McCain,’ he said. ‘In the long term, I mean. The short term will be good for them. But when voters step back and analyze how he made this decision, I think he’s going to be in big trouble. You just can’t wing something like this—it’s too important. … I think we just need to sit back and play our game,’ said Obama. ‘It actually won’t be bad to be off-Broadway for a few days. We should just leave her out of the equation. This is a race between John McCain and me. To the extent we talk about Palin, I think it should be about the differences in our selection processes—it illuminates differences in how we’d make decisions in the White House.’”

(h/t Playbook)

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