With polls down, Palin must get in touch with her "inner barracuda"

Jake Turcotte

Despite the downward trend of polls, John McCain showed plenty of optimism this morning as he made the round of the news programs.

The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows Obama up nine points (49 - 40 percent) while a new national AP poll shows a seven point lead for the Democratic ticket (48 - 41 percent).

The significance of these polls?  McCain was ahead three weeks ago in an AP poll, while today's Times poll reflects the first time Obama has had a significant lead outside of the margin of error.

One game at a time

It's like entering the fourth quarter a touchdown or two behind. McCain sounded like a sportscaster who says, "Hold on folks, there's plenty of football left."

"Look, we're doing fine," McCain told Fox News. "We were up in the polls, and then we were down in the polls, and we were up in the polls, and down in the polls ... you know, we can't worry about the day-to-day tick-tock."

Air it out

It's not like they're anywhere close to needing a Franco Harris-like "Immaculate Reception."  Although it can be argued that this campaign has thrown up many Hail Mary's in the past couple months.  Regardless, we've still got 33 days to go.

"I think we're doing fine," McCain said discussing the state of the campaign.  "We've got a lot of work to do. I always love being the underdog, and I think we're going to be up late on election night. But I'm very happy with where we are."

Of course it is easier not to worry about it when you are leading the game, or the campaign.

Tonight's debate

As for the Palin-Biden showdown tonight, McCain offered a little criticism on the choice of moderators. PBS commentator Gwen Ifill is hosting the debate. The issue? It's just that book thing.  You know, the one she's written about black politicians including Barack Obama to be released on Inauguration Day.

"Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn't writing a book that is favorable to Barack Obama – I mean let's face it," said McCain. "But I have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will treat this as the professional journalist that she is."

"I would imagine that there are other people out there who are not writing a book on Inauguration Day favorable to Sen. Obama," he added.

Do or die

Meanwhile, yet another poll shows why Palin must do well tonight.  A new Washington Post survey shows 60 percent of Americans expressing doubt over Palin's qualifications to hold office and some 32 percent saying they are less likely to vote for the GOP ticket because of Palin.

This, of course, has the prognosticators prognosticating that tonight's debate is a 'do or die' event.

"Any mistake or gaffe by Palin could be fatal with a new poll finding voters are now questioning their commitment to Republican presidential candidate John McCain because of her," said ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanoplous.

The resurrection

What's Palin have to do tonight?  According to GOP strategist Todd Harris, the answer is "Resurrect Sarah Barracuda."

"She needs to aggressively attack Obama," Harris told The Vote.  "The more she goes after Obama and his record, the less this debate will be about her. It’s not important whether she knows the minutiae of the economic crisis. It is important that she tells voters that Obama doesn’t."

Inner Barracuda

This is what conservative critics have been saying for some time.  Palin needs to bring out her "inner barracuda." As we wrote this morning, some critics are blaming her handlers for the now seemingly timid and fragile Palin instead of the fiesty candidate witnessed in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial contest.

Anchorage Daily News columnist and NPR commentator Geo Beach told The Vote that the “professional political polishers” have taken away her fire.

“It’s like putting a polar bear into the zoo — ain’t got the same bite, baby,” Beach said.

Wet whupped pup

It wasn't always this way, said Beach. She's always been underestimated.

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.

Pitbull, moose, barracuda, whatever.  Sarah Palin and Joe Biden go on stage tonight at 9pm (ET) for what's sure to be the most-watched vice presidential debate in history.

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