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Doubts about Palin grow, even among conservatives

Some rough TV interviews have prompted some to ask if McCain’s running mate is ready.

By Staff Writer / September 30, 2008

Fading shine? GOP presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, Monday.

Gerald Herbert/AP

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Washington

In just a month, Sarah Palin has gone from being the darling of the GOP to a major question mark hanging over John McCain’s candidacy at a critical moment in the presidential campaign.

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The appealing, reform-minded governor of Alaska, whose surprise selection as Senator McCain’s running mate electrified Republicans at their convention last month, now faces questions from prominent conservatives over whether she’s up to being a potential president – especially at a time of international financial turmoil. All eyes will be on her Thursday night when she debates Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden, a veteran senator from Delaware.

After some rough TV interviews and dead-on parodies of Palin on “Saturday Night Live” that have reinforced the questions, she risks becoming 2008’s Dan Quayle – the young Indiana senator plucked from obscurity for the GOP’s 1988 ticket, who never overcame early stumbles and a light-weight image. Mr. Quayle did not prevent the top of the ticket, George H. W. Bush, from becoming president. But the times are different: The bad economy, unpopular wars, and an unpopular president all slant the playing field toward the Democrats this year.

One by one, conservative columnists such as David Frum, David Brooks, and Kathleen Parker have come out against Palin, calling her in effect not ready for prime time. Among voters, polls show that initial enthusiasm for Palin has slipped, though the overall race remains competitive.

Still, the willingness of conservative opinion leaders to state their reservations out loud is striking, and may indicate growing doubts among Republican rank and file. “I think it does reflect thinking that is maybe said quietly,” says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who remains a fan of Palin. But all is not lost, he says. “The proof is in the pudding, and we see the pudding on Thursday night.”

Perhaps the most striking conservative defector is Ms. Parker, a syndicated columnist who was initially enthusiastic about Palin but now believes the Alaskan should bow out of the race “to save McCain, her party, and the country she loves.” Palin, she wrote last Friday, is “clearly out of her league,” a conclusion she says she came to reluctantly after watching the handful of interviews Palin has granted.

The response to Parker’s article was fierce. “I’ve gotten about 8,000 e-mails,” she told the Monitor. “They range from angry to vicious to appreciative to ‘Thank God somebody spoke up’.”

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