ABC News’ Kate Snow and Imtiyaz Delawala report: Gov. Sarah Palin secluded herself today at the Sedona ranch home of Sen. John McCain, using the sprawling estate’s “relaxed environment” to prepare for her critical vice presidential debate with Sen. Joe Biden Thursday in St. Louis.
"The Governor’s debate prep today is taking place outdoors near a creek on the scenic McCain ranch in Sedona,” a campaign official said. “The serenity and beauty of this setting has contributed to what can be characterized as a relaxed environment.”
Signaling the importance of the upcoming debate, McCain’s top campaign adviser Steve Schmidt traveled to Sedona to help with the final preparations, as did McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, who is playing the part of Sen. Biden in mock debate sessions. Mark Wallace, deputy campaign manager to President Bush in 2004, has also been working closely with Palin, as has former Bush National Security Council staffer Steve Biegun, who is serving as Palin’s lead foreign policy adviser.
Palin has also been joined in Arizona by her husband Todd, as well as her daughters Willow and Piper, and infant son Trig. Aides to the campaign hope the atmosphere will help Palin relax and better prepare for the upcoming showdown with Biden, and allow her to focus on highlighting her strengths as a candidate.
“She’s eager to show more of what got her where she is,” the Palin aide said. “To her team, that means more of what her fans in Alaska and elsewhere know and love about her record and her fresh approach to reform.”
Palin was widely criticized for a series of interviews with CBS’ Katie Couric that aired last week, including by former conservative supporters who said she was unprepared and presented herself poorly on critical issues such as the economy and foreign policy. Palin took time out from her debate preparation this afternoon to tape an interview with conservative blogger and radio host Hugh Hewitt, in which she blasted the media’s treatment of her.
“I have a degree in journalism also, so it surprises me that so much has changed since I received my education in journalistic ethics all those years ago. But I’m not going to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrelful. I’m going to take those shots and those pop quizzes and just say that’s okay, those are good testing grounds,” Palin told Hewitt. “It makes somebody be even clearer and more articulate in their positions. So really I don’t fight it. I invite it.”
At a rally in Columbus, OH yesterday Palin said she was looking forward to the debate with Biden, while making a joking reference to her opponent’s age and experience in Washington.
“We are going to talk about those new ideas, new energy for America,” Palin told the crowd. “I’m looking forward to meet him too. I’ve never met him before. But, I’ve been hearing about his senate speeches since I was in like 2nd grade.”
In another interview yesterday, after the Columbus rally, Couric asked Palin whether joking about Biden’s age was “a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden’s been around awhile” given that her own running mate is 72 years old, and would be the oldest president ever elected.
“Oh no, it’s nothing negative at all,” Palin said of the comment on Biden. “He’s got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we’ve been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he’s got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I’m the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he’s got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.”