How Do You Survive the World's Most Public Defeat?

Just ask Sarah Palin's handler, Nicolle Wallace.

Most Popular
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Nicolle Wallace is settled into a corner table at Fred's, a swank café at Barneys in Manhattan, dressed casually in jeans. It's surprising that she picked this spot, given her history: As an adviser to Sarah Palin, she has been blamed for Palin's infamous $150,000 shopping spree (which included purchases from this very store), among other campaign debacles. But Wallace, 37, is here to talk about her next step — and she doesn't want any guff. "You give me any lip," she says, "I'm out of here. I've got embryos on ice."

Most Popular

It's a joke — kind of. She's given everything to an unimaginably demanding career, which has meant putting motherhood on hold. As a loyal Republican foot soldier, she's spent the past 12 years rising through the ranks, eventually landing in the White House. Trained under GOP mastermind and Bush consigliere Karl Rove, she helped label John Kerry a "flip-flopper" in 2004, then went on to serve as Bush's communications director before becoming a senior adviser to John McCain, who tapped her to chaperone Palin through the treacherous world of national politics.

It should have been a dream job. But as the campaign careened off course, everyone from pundits to Palin supporters pointed fingers at Wallace — Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes called her the "coward" behind the shopping orgy, and National Review blogger David Frum accused her of spreading rumors that Palin wasn't up to the task of vice president. Wallace was an easy target — a woman in the ultimate boys' club.

"I wish I could say I don't care," says Wallace, a pretty, freckly blonde, who denies taking Palin on the shopathon but owns up to helping the candidate "prepare" for the much-mocked interview with Katie Couric. "I was blindly loyal to the McCain-Palin ticket. As a staffer, you'd walk through fire." She picks at her chopped salad. "To think I've always been loyal..."

Loyal in spite of having grown up in serious blue-state territory, just across the bay from San Francisco, and later attending hippie haven Berkeley. She's been a longtime believer in the GOP, and says she has kept in touch with the McCain family following the election, most recently having dinner with daughter Meghan McCain.

Although she won't admit to flat-out regrets, Wallace seems eager to put the bruising political season behind her. "I am very joyfully sliding back into obscurity," she says, noting that random strangers recognized her on the street during the height of the election frenzy. "My professional life will never involve working on a campaign again." It's time, she says, to have children with her husband, Mark Wallace, a high-powered Republican lawyer she met while working on the 2000 Florida recount. "My life's ambition is to start a family and to be a good wife and sister and daughter," she says, explaining that she's undergoing IVF treatments to help kick-start the process. In the meantime, she's writing a chick-lit novel, about three women at the top of their careers, including — surprise — the first woman president.

GIF
Politics
Share
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer React to Hillary's Nomination, Diss Ben Franklin
Politics
Share
Just Try Not to Tear Up at This Photo of Hillary Clinton Watching Chelsea's Speech
Politics
Share
Hillary Clinton Just Gave the Speech of Her Life—Here's the Full Transcript
Politics
Share
What Will It Be Like to Have a "First Gentleman"? Here, a Preview
Politics
Share
The 10 Best Quotes from President Barack Obama's Historic Speech at the DNC
Erica Smegielski, Hillary Clinton
Politics
Share
Daughter of Sandy Hook Victim Says This Is the Reason You Should Vote for Hillary Clinton
Politics
Share
Major Newspapers Put Bill, Not Hillary, on Their Front Pages Announcing Historic Nomination
Politics
Share
How Michelle Obama Transformed the DNC in One Fell Swoop
Politics
Share
The 10 Best Lines from Michelle Obama's DNC Speech
Politics
Share
Lena Headey on Her Life-Changing Journey to Greece, and the Heartbreak That Awaited Her There