McCain staffers lay the blame on 'hillbilly' Palin


POST MORTEM:DIVISIONS WITHIN the Republican Party have already begun to surface following Barack Obama's victory, and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is taking much of the criticism.

Mrs Palin, who is being tipped by some in the party as a possible contender for the Republican nomination in four years' time, was greeted on her return to Alaska yesterday by dozens of supporters chanting "2012, 2012".

However, she has already been hit with criticism from Fox News - the strongly conservative news channel, which has aired, at some length, damaging stories from within the McCain/Palin campaign.

In a lengthy interview, Fox's Carl Cameron quoted McCain staffers as saying that Mrs Palin did not know that Africa was a continent and not a country, and barely understood the structure of US government. She had also, it was alleged, refused to prepare for her interview in September with ABC's Katie Couric, where she was seen to be ill-informed about international issues.

Equally, it appears that Mrs Palin's staff were not taken by surprise by a Canadian comedian who rang and spoke to the Alaska governor pretending to be French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and who expressed a desire to go shooting animals with her and her husband.

Instead, Mrs Palin's staff had scheduled her to take the call several days beforehand, though no checks were made subsequently to ensure that the request had come from the Élysée Palace.

Despite his campaign protestations of support for Mrs Palin, Mr McCain himself rarely spoke to her during it, and one of his aides vetoed her attempt to speak in Phoenix on Tuesday night when he conceded defeat.

Mr McCain's staffers say that the Palin camp kept him in the dark about her $150,000 expenditure on clothes because they knew he would be offended, while they also claim she pressurised junior staff to put thousands of dollars worth of her bills on their credit cards. One McCain staffer said the Palin family were "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus [a major US high-quality clothing store] from coast to coast".

The emergence of allegations is not unusual in defeated presidential campaigns, though the stories will damage attempts by Mrs Palin to create a base for 2012. Some influential Republicans met yesterday in Washington, using the offices of conservative magazine the National Reviewto prepare the ground for her to become the party's leading figure.