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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.

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Some readers are blaming her for handing the election to Democrat Barack Obama, and consider her a traitor. “My comment on that,” she says, “is that I do not work for the GOP, and otherwise I don’t think being a conservative means that we have to leap into the darkness.”

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There’s virtually no chance that Palin will actually drop out, Parker says, noting that it would be assumed McCain had asked her to step aside.

The idea of dumping Palin is a “nonstarter,” says political scientist Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College in California. “If it ever happened, that would be the day McCain loses.”

McCain “would be entering McGovernland,” Mr. Pitney says, referring to George McGovern, the Democrats’ 1972 nominee, who dropped his first running mate, Thomas Eagleton, after it was revealed that he had received electroshock therapy for depression. Senator McGovern lost 49 states, though probably not because of the Eagleton controversy.

Some Republicans argue that the McCain campaign has mishandled Palin, saying she has been crammed with talking points, which at times come out a bit garbled, and not allowed to be herself.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was on McCain’s running mate shortlist, faults the campaign for limiting her availability to the media. “Holding Sarah Palin to just three interviews and microscopically focusing on each interview I think has been a mistake,” Mr. Romney said Monday on MSNBC. “I think they’d be a lot wiser to let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let her talk to the media, let her talk to people.”

Romney still believes she brings positives to the ticket, calling her a “maverick” like McCain. “She’s a person identified with people in homes across America…,” he said. “She’s an executive and a governor, and that brings a lot to John McCain’s ticket.”

Palin now faces the political challenge of her career, going up against a seasoned Washington politician – Senator Biden – in front of millions of viewers on national television Thursday. On Monday, she and her family flew to Sedona, Ariz., for three days of debate preparation at McCain’s ranch with a team of veteran campaign aides and policy experts.

Republican pollster David Winston does not think it’s too late for Palin to remake her image. She had an auspicious debut in her well-delivered convention speech, he says, but remains a new figure on the national stage. “She was not well-known, so inherently every appearance is more noticeable,” Mr. Winston says. “It’s because she’s a woman. Everything she does is just more noticeable.”

Thus, Thursday’s debate is huge. “For a lot of Americans,” Winston says, “their understanding of Sarah Palin is going to come during this debate.”