As Slate’s John Dickerson noted a few days ago, for several weeks “Republicans inside and outside the McCain campaign have speculated about those moments when Palin and John McCain have appeared to disagree.”
Palin said she disagreed with McCain’s decision to stop competing in Michigan. She broke from McCain and said she supported a federal marriage amendment. McCain didn’t like the Bush administration decision to remove North Korea from the list of terrorist nations; Palin backed it. Palin told the New York Times’ William Kristol that she thought McCain should bring up Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even thought McCain had said it was off the table. She said robocalls were irritating and suggested that if she were calling the shots the campaign wouldn’t be employing them.
Since these disagreements didn’t appear to be part of some plan, Dickerson wrote, “political insiders have started asking whether Palin is simply undisciplined or is intentionally ignoring the playbook. And if it’s intentional, the question becomes: Is she putting her own political self-interest ahead of her running mate’s?”
Today Ben Smith at Politico fleshed this story out a bit more, discussing the tensions between the McCain and Palin camps.
“Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain’s camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain’s decline.”
One senior Republican who speaks to Palin told Smith "I think she’d like to go more rogue.”
Said a McCain insider, "These people are going to try and shred her” – meaning former Bush aide Nicolle Wallace, who helped with Palin’s rollout – “after the campaign to divert blame from themselves.”
(Many Republicans defend Wallace, arguing that the problem wasn’t that Wallace kept Palin from holding a press conference, it’s that Palin would have been eaten alive during one. The problem, they say, was the unpreparedness of the pick herself.)
CNN followed that up with a story in which “McCain sources say Palin has gone off-message several times, and they privately wonder whether the incidents were deliberate.”
One McCain source told CNN that Palin is looking out for herself more than she is looking out for the McCain campaign.
"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."
Meanwhile, while this is all going on, at The Daily Beast, former Bush/McCain aide Mark McKinnon defends the McCain campaign.
“The most popular parlor game in Washington, D.C., these days is the bludgeoning of the McCain campaign,” McKinnon writes. “One of the physical laws of politics is that if your campaign wins, you’re a genius. If you lose, you’re an idiot.”
McKinnon writes that the environment is McCain’s problem – not this backbiting, not the Palin pick. “There is a fundamental question we always ask in political polls. Is the country headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track?” he writes. “Whenever the wrong track number is over 50 it spells trouble for the incumbent party. The most recently recorded number is the worst in the history of polling. Only nine percent of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction. I know what you’re thinking. ‘Who are those nine percent?’
“So, by this measure, John McCain should be polling at about nine percent. And yet, (McCain strategist Steve) Schmidt and company ran a good enough campaign that McCain went into the Republican Convention tied. And came out of it ahead. The only real surprise in this race is that it was ever close."
Former Bush Sr. White House aide Jim Nuzzo, meanwhile, sounds like he’s re-creating a scene from Animal House when he takes on the "cocktail party conservatives" who "give aid and comfort to the enemy."
Nuzzo tells the Sunday Telegraph: "There’s going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"
What say you?