Sarah Palin: Barracuda or Bambi?

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In Sarah Palin's short time in the national spotlight, her rise and fall has been dramatic.

In one month, she's gone from the darling of the Republican party (remember her convention speech?) to a seeming liability with calls from some conservatives for John McCain to hit the restart button and get another running mate.

Plummeting polls

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A new Washington Post poll this morning shows that 60 percent of those polled do not believe Palin has the adequate experience to be President. Further, one-third of likely voters polled said they are less likely to vote for the GOP ticket because of Palin.

This doesn't seem to jibe with many of the people who know Palin best. They know her to be something else. And it sure isn't the timid, unsure, and fragile Sarah Palin who appeared in the never-ending series of interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric.

They know the confident, energetic, fiesty Sarah Palin from the convention. They say there's a reason that Palin's high-school nickname, "Sarah Barracuda," has stayed with her throughout her career: She knows how to strike.

Ain't got the same bite, baby

What's the problem? Critics say it's the McCain campaign. Her handlers. The people that 'know best' how to deal with the media.

Anchorage Daily News columnist and NPR commentator Geo Beach echoes what many conservatives are saying: Let Sarah be Sarah.

He tells The Vote that the "professional political polishers" have all but removed her strength.

"It's like putting a polar bear into the zoo -- ain't got the same bite, baby," Beach said.

Wet whupped pup

He's yet another voice from Palin's past who says if she rids herself of the so-called help, the barracuda will return.

"Sarah Palin has done it before, and not just at Wasilla City Hall," Beach continued. "Sen. Frank Murkowski thought he was the polished Big Dog from Washington D.C .when he came back to Alaska as governor. Then Sarah took him out in the Tall Grass and... Frank went home a wet, whupped pup."

"Moral: A pit bull doesn't do any good on a leash," said Beach.

Great debater?

Andrew Halcro, a former member of the Alaska State House who ran against Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial contest, agrees with Beach. In a column written for the Monitor yesterday, Halcro says Palin can be a juggernaut. And that doesn't mean she's a policy wonk. Instead, says Halcro, she just knows how to win.

"On paper, the difference in experience on both domestic and foreign policy is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing a bullet," he writes. "Unfortunately for Biden, if recent history is an indicator, experience or a grasp of the issues won't matter when it comes to debating Palin."

No need for specifics

Halcro calls her a "master of the non-answer" which allows her to avoid policy specifics in favor of connecting with the people.

"She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she's met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges," he writes. "All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges."

Faceoff

It's not just one side of the aisle that has taken note of two sides of Sarah Palin. The Biden team has been preparing for this debate for some time. Undoubtedly they've spent many hours analyzing her 2006 gubernatorial debate (video below) in which she looks anything but afraid.

Longtime Democratic operative Chris Lehane put it in hockey terms.

"If the hockey mom looks like a hockey goalie facing [NHL superstar] Syndey Crosby on a break-away -- as she did with Couric -- then she won't pass the test," Lehane told The Vote. "If, on the other hand, we see the Palin from the convention, she could pass the test."

So what's it going to be Sarah? Barracuda or Bambi? We'll see tonight.

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