Exclusive: Spat Over Todd Palin's Membership In Secessionist Party Was Major Distraction On Critical Day In '08 Campaign
The tension between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and top McCain campaign aides in the closing days of last fall's presidential campaign is elucidated in a profile in the new issue of Vanity Fair. CBS News' Scott Conroy and special contributor Shushannah Walshe, who are writing a book about Palin, reveal just one example of how the mutual frustrations went even further than what has been disclosed so far.
Internal campaign e-mails exchanged three weeks before Election Day offer a rare look at just how frustrated then Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had become with the manner in which top McCain campaign aides were handling her candidacy. The e-mails, obtained exclusively, also highlight the power struggle and thinly veiled acrimony that pervaded the relationship between Palin and the campaign's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt.
The episode in question began when an investigative report published on the left-leaning Web site Salon.com raised questions about Palin's relationship with members of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) when she was mayor of Wasilla. The AIP's platform calls for a vote giving Alaskans the option to secede from the United States. It had already been widely known that Todd Palin was a registered member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002 and that Governor Palin had taped a recorded greeting at the party's 2008 convention.
On the morning of Oct. 15, Palin was aboard her campaign jet and en route to New Hampshire when she happened to catch a disparaging CNN segment that touted the Salon.com story, complete with a provocative graphic at the bottom of the screen reading, "THE PALINS AND THE FRINGE."
While shaking hands after a rally later that afternoon, someone on the rope line shouted a remark at Palin about the AIP.
The comment set her off. She worried that the campaign was not sufficiently mitigating the issue of her alleged connection to the party, which despite a platform that harkens more to the Civil War than the 21st century, continued to play a serious role in Alaska politics.
Palin blasted out an e-mail with the subject line "Todd" to Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis and senior advisor Nicolle Wallace, copying her husband on the message (all of the e-mails are reprinted below as written).
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