Sarah Palin - still not ready for prime time

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Although Sarah Palin's outing with CBS anchor Katie Couric has not been well-received, it may be too harsh to say Palin was like Chris Farley and Couric like Paul McCartney in this (admittedly role-reversed) version of this Saturday Night Live skit.

But since the Farley-McCartney interview was such great comic material, it's good to bring it up whenever possible and provide the link to it.

No, Palin was not Farley. But she wasn't good either. And with less than 40 days before Americans head to the voting booth, there's not much time to get Palin used to dealing with the national press.

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"Bury the interview!"

It appears that she needs more time, but unfortunately for the McCain campaign, they don't have the luxury of putting her into an incubator to slowly ramp up to deal with the national press.

The interview with Couric had GOP strategist Rob Stutzman telling The Vote yesterday that McCain needs to participate in tonight's debate simply "to bury the Palin CBS interview!"

Surprising?

Is it surprising? Somewhat. If you look at many national interviews she's done in the past as Governor of Alaska, she performed much better than her outing this week with Couric and ABC's Charlie Gibson of two weeks ago. And when you consider that up until the financial meltdown, nothing dominated the news cycle more than the nation's energy woes – an issue that she's comfortable chatting about – she had a lot of practice. In those interviews anyway, she looked poised and confident.

Couric and the Maverick

Poised and confident is not how she looked with Couric. On Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Couric asked Palin for an example of where McCain has led the charge for more oversight. Says Couric, "[McCain's] been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation – not more."

Palin: "He's also known as a maverick though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party."

Couric: "I'm just going to ask one more time, not to belabor the point – specific example in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation."

Palin: "I'll try to find you some, and I'll bring 'em to ya."

As those last words fumbled from her mouth, you know she was saying, "Get me out of here."

What?

On whether the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector is a good idea.

If you didn't quite catch the meaning of the above, don't bother re-reading it. It doesn't get any clearer. U.S. News and World Report columnist Robert Schlesinger called the statement a "talking points machine gone out of control."

"Or magnetic poetry that you have on your fridge – in fact, you can try it at home. String together key words and phrases like "shore up the economy," "reduce tax rates," "healthcare reform," and "trade" and see what kind of Palinisms you can create," he writes.

I can see Russia from my house

One of the unfair things in politics is you are sometimes remembered for what you didn't say. Sarah Palin never said, "I can see Russia from my house." Saturday Night Live did. But as we look back at the 2008 campaign, here's betting that this quote is going to be the one remembered.

Earlier in September, Palin – in discussing her foreign policy experience – said of Russia, "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

She was instantly derided for this, with SNL coming up with the aforementioned sound bite.

Couric followed up with her on that statement asking her to "explain why that enhances your foreign policy credentials."

Palin replied, "Well, it certainly does because our – our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia..."

Couric stepped in with, "Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

"We have trade missions back and forth," Palin began. "We, we do, it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to, to our state."

Red alert

This led LA Times columnist James Rainey to wonder:

"Certainly, Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has demonstrated his willingness to invade its small neighbors," he wrote. "But have I missed news of recent provocations by Russian bombers over Kiwalik or Aleknagik?

Don't answer the question

One of the first things taught to anyone – especially politicians – in addressing the media is not to answer the reporter's question but to answer the question you want to answer. Sure, it is maddening to the viewers. Screams of "they're not answering the questions" are hurled at the television. But there's a reason for this. You can avoid the above.

It doesn't have to be as nefarious as it sounds. Watch Joe Biden. He doesn't have an answer to every question. But he's been around long enough to know how to dance when he doesn't have an answer and focus the issue on where he wants it focused. Even when he messes up, he does it with enough confidence that many times it's overlooked.

Can Palin be saved?

Based on looking at prior interviews while serving as just the Governor of Alaska, she appears over-coached. At some point – and some point soon – the campaign is going have to let Palin be Palin and see if she rises to challenge.

GOP campaign consultant Ed Rollins says no more of these though.

"[The campaign] put her in many more interviews like this. She bought them two weeks in the campaign which is quite an achievement," Rollins said.

Elway, Marino, Leaf

It's like the old debate in professional football: Do you start the rookie quarterback or do you let him mature, hold the playbook and let him learn from the seasoned pro?

John Elway and Dan Marino both started in their rookie seasons and went on to greatness. Ryan Leaf started in his rookie year as well and is regarded as the most spectacular flame-out in the history of the league.

You're the starter

But as GOP strategist Stutzman tells The Vote, it's sink or swim – fair or not.

You can't keep her on the bench," Stutzman explained. "She was put in the game when they picked her."

"The rock star status she instantly had creates brutally unfair expectations," he said. "For example, Biden gaffed like a unsupervised crazy uncle last week but it didn't matter. No expectations for him."

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