Palin said in a recent interview that how she was portrayed during the 2008 presidential campaign "was pretty screwed up" — but she would be a candidate again

By Sean Neumann
August 06, 2020 03:51 PM
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Sarah Palin was characteristically candid when she was asked during an ABC News interview on Wednesday whether she thinks women in politics face more scrutiny than men.

"Heck yeah," said the former Alaska governor, adding that she believes the 2008 Republican ticket — which she made history by joining as the vice presidential candidate alongside presidential nominee John McCain — made a mistake by focusing too much on her personality rather than her track record.

"Women face so much more scrutiny," Palin, 56, told ABC.

"In a lot of sense, it was a lot about looks — you know, the physicality involved in serving in public office — which was ridiculous to me," she said. "Whereas men, even today, aren't under that kind of microscope."

Palin said the "roll out" for the 2008 campaign "was pretty screwed up."

"I was asked so often, 'How are you going to do this with children?' And, granted, I had just had a baby and another son who was heading off to war, and my daughter — my teenage daughter — who was pregnant," she said.

"Yeah, we had kind of some typical family issues going on," Palin said, laughing, before lamenting: "But I was asked so much about that."

From left: Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign
Kiichiro Sato/AP

McCain picking Palin as his running-mate instantly made her one of the most famous politicians in the country. But that rapid rise, from unknown to possible vice president, had its downsides: Her record as the governor of a small state was dissected in public and her folksy demeanor and frequent verbal gaffes fueled many a takedown or parody — including Tina Fey's infamous version on Saturday Night Live.

What had meant to be a boost to McCain's conservative campaign, at a time when much of the country had soured on the Republicans in the White House, came to be seen as a dead weight at the same time that the Great Recession loomed.

That November, McCain and Palin lost by a lopsided margin.

Speaking with ABC this week, Palin sounded as though she still had problems with how she was treated.

"People weren't able to know my accomplishments, who I was, my experience, what I stood for or what I could add to the ticket," she said. "Instead, the rollout of the campaign just went along with media, letting it be more about personality and just the personal aspects of who I was, instead of what I represented."

She added that "women just inherently have gone through that more than men."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee, has similarly spoken out about how women in politics are treated differently since her own losing campaign.

“Practically every day started with me doing hair and makeup,” Clinton said in a recent Hulu docuseries. “There were 600 days, give or take, on the campaign and it was an hour to an hour and a half — so being really conservative, an hour doing hair and makeup. I calculated it, and I spent 25 days doing hair and makeup. I knew that the man I was running against didn’t have to do any of that.”

Sarah Palin in 2009
Al Grillo/AP

Palin told ABC that the woman who 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden picks to be his running mate "has really got to be strong and be vocal when it comes to those trying to shape them, mold them, tell them what to say," referencing campaign aides who advise politicians on everything from policy to clothes.

"That candidate had better be strong and stand up for what she knows is right," Palin said.

As for herself, Palin said she would run for office again "in a heartbeat" and that she planned to run for an elected position again at some point.

She said she would take more control of her public image the next time around, however.

"I would've gone rogue a lot earlier," she said, when addressing what she would do differently in a future campaign. "I would've fought back against those who were running the campaign who, you know, weren't in touch with the American people and what the American people wanted."

She continued: "I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and I want to do it again. I want to be back in there in public service."