McCain Strategist: Palin in 2012 Would Be 'Catastrophic' for GOP

Looks like there's at least one high-profile Republican who won't be voting for Sarah Palin should she run in 2012. Steve Schmidt, John McCain's top political strategist in 2008, told a forum in Washington today that nominating Palin as the party's next presidential nominee would be "catastrophic" for Republicans. "I think that she has talents, but my honest view is that she would not be a winning candidate," Schmidt said. "In fact, were she to be the nominee, we would have a catastrophic election result."

The comments aren't necessarily surprising—many prominent Republicans privately share Schmidt's views. And there's bad blood between Schmidt and Palin. As has been widely reported, the two clashed repeatedly during the campaign. Palin allies have accused Schmidt of leaking unflattering details about her to reporters. Schmidt allies have accused her of being a diva and unmanageable. Schmidt is the only member of McCain's inner circle to publicly criticize Palin—something that McCain himself has privately discouraged but seems in no real position to stop any longer. Asked today how he thought he might be portrayed in Palin's upcoming memoir, , Schmidt replied, "I think it may say I was anti-rogue in the running of the campaign."

But even with all the drama, the fact that these comments are coming from Schmidt, who advised McCain to pick Palin as his vice presidential candidate, can't be overlooked. It's not entirely personal. For months, Schmidt, without mentioning Palin's name, has urged the GOP, for its own survival, to find a way to appeal to moderates and independents as well as the party's base. "In the year since the election has ended, [Palin] has done nothing to expand her appeal beyond the base," Schmidt said today. "The independent vote is going to be up for grabs in 2012. That middle of the electorate is going to be determinative of the outcome of the elections. I just don't see that if you look at the things she has done over the year . . . that she is going to expand that base in the middle." It's not "inconceivable" that she could win the nomination, Schmidt acknowledged. "I do think it's fairly inconceivable that she could be elected president of the United States."

UPDATE, 1:43 p.m.: Meg Stapleton, Palin's spokeswoman, responds via e-mail: "The Governor will write about all of this in her book. There will be plenty of time to talk about it then."