Mocked by comedians, derided by prominent conservatives and reeling from flustered interviews with national media, Sarah Palin is proving a risky gamble in Republican John McCain’s quest for the White House.
“Palin is Ready? Please” a headline in Newsweek said this week of the moose-hunting Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, capping a turbulent week in which Palin’s fitness for the job came under growing scrutiny.
“Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president,” Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria wrote.
“She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start,” he said.
The column could be dismissed as one of hundreds of biting news stories in the hard-fought race between McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, with less than six weeks before the November 4 presidential election.
But it follows a whirlwind of criticism and ridicule from Republicans and Democrats alike since interviews with CBS news anchor Katie Couric, Fox News’ Sean Hannity and ABC News’ Charles Gibson that raise questions over her nomination and dealings with the media.
History shows most Americans vote for presidents, not vice presidents and Palin’s folksy appeal energizes far larger crowds than those drawn to gaffe-prone Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, whom she debates on Thursday.
But the governor’s troubles are piling up – from a stubborn investigation into charges that as governor she abused her power by firing a public safety commissioner to her latest stumbles with the media.
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, an early Palin supporter, on Friday bluntly called on Palin to step down to “save McCain, her party, and the country she loves”.
“Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin, should conditions warrant her promotion,” Ms Parker wrote in the conservative National Review.
Ms Palin could withdraw from the race for personal reasons such as wanting to spend more time with her newborn, added Ms Parker, who in September rallied behind Ms Palin for showing “strength, conviction, determination” and confidence.
The 44-year-old self-described hockey mom’s image of homespun authenticity, which boosted McCain last month with a leap in support among white women, has been replaced by a less flattering image as a political neophyte and butt of jokes.
The popular TV sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live mocked Palin’s assertion that governing Alaska gives her foreign policy experience because of its geographic proximity to Russia.
Late-night television host David Letterman said Palin’s meetings with world leaders at the United Nations looked like “take your daughter to work day.”