A growing number of Republicans are expressing concern about Sarah Palin’s uneven - and sometimes downright awkward - performances in her limited media appearances.
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, a former Palin supporter, says the vice presidential nominee should step aside. Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing for the conservative National Review, says “that’s not a crazy suggestion” and that “something’s gotta change.”
Tony Fabrizio, a GOP strategist, says Palin’s recent CBS appearance isn’t disqualifying but is certainly alarming. “You can’t continue to have interviews like that and not take on water.”
“I have not been blown away by the interviews from her, but at the same time, I haven’t come away from them thinking she doesn’t know s-t,” said Chris Lacivita, a GOP strategist. “But she ain’t Dick Cheney, nor Joe Biden and definitely not Hillary Clinton.”
There is no doubt that Palin retains a tremendous amount of support among rank-and-file Republicans. She draws huge crowds, continues to raise a lot of money for the McCain campaign, and state parties report she has sparked an uptick in the number of volunteers.
Asked about Palin’s performance in the CBS interview, a McCain official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said: “She did fine. She’s a tremendous asset and a fantastic candidate.”
But there is also no doubt many Republican insiders are worried she could blow next week’s debate, based on her unexpectedly weak and unsteady media appearances, and hurt the Republican ticket if she does.
What follows is a viewer’s guide to some of Palin’s toughest moments on camera so far.
Speaking this week with CBS’s Katie Couric, Palin seemed caught off-guard by a very predictable question about the status of McCain adviser Rick Davis’ relationship with mortgage lender Freddie Mac. Davis was accused by several news outlets of retaining ties - and profiting from - the companies despite his denials.
Where a more experienced politician might have been able to brush off Couric’s follow-up question, Palin seemed genuinely stumped, repeating the same answer twice and resorting to boilerplate language about the “undue influence of lobbyists.”
These missteps could be attributed to inadequate preparation and don’t necessarily reflect more deeply on Palin’s ability to perform as vice president. But when reporters have tried to probe Palin’s thinking on subjects such as foreign policy, she’s been similarly opaque.
In an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Palin gave a muddled answer to a question about her opinion of the Bush Doctrine.
And given the chance to describe her foreign policy credentials more fully, Palin recited familiar talking points, telling Gibson that her experience with energy policy was sufficient preparation for dealing with national security issues.
In the same interview, Palin let Gibson lead her into saying it might be necessary to wage war on Russia - a suggestion that most candidates would have avoided making explicitly and that signaled her discomfort in discussing global affairs.
Then, asked this week by Couric to discuss her knowledge of foreign relations - in particular, her assertion that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gave her international experience - Palin tripped herself up explaining her interactions with Alaska’s neighbor to the west.
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On the economy, too, Palin has avoided taking clear stances. In a largely friendly interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Palin spoke in tangled generalities in response to a question about a possible Wall Street bailout - and even preempted her campaign by coming out against it.
On Thursday, Palin finally took questions from her traveling press - but shut things down quickly after Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel asked her whether she would support Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has been indicted for corruption, and Rep. Don Young, who is under federal investigation, for reelection.
Unlike her other interviews, at least this time Palin had the option to walk away.