NBC appears to be pulling out all the stops to keep former host Katie Couric from eclipsing TODAY's ratings as she anchors CBS's This Morning this week.
NBC recruited former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to guest host Tuesday in a move that some GOP strategists say could help energize the Republican Party as it prepares to name a GOP nominee.
"She is obviously a political rock star," says former John McCain campaign strategist Boris Epshteyn. "She has got a persona that people and voters react to positively and are energized by. It is going to be a ratings bonanza for them, and it's good for us."
Epshteyn says despite a few campaign gaffes, Palin has proven herself to be an asset in the television spotlight, mobilizing a conservative sector of the GOP that will be key in 2012. [See a collection of political cartoons on Sarah Palin.]
Michael Wissot, a senior strategist at Luntz Global, agreed Palin's appearance could impact the GOP, but Wissot says Palin needs to recapture what made her such a maverick veep choice in 2008.
"The best way for her to serve the Republican Party, if she chooses, is to regain the spirit and temperament that earned her so much popularity as governor of Alaska," Wissot says. "Ever since the 2008 presidential campaign, her messages have been much more partisan-based. And I think that she understands now that it's time to reposition herself."
TODAY Show host Matt Lauer poked fun at Palin in a preliminary interview Monday asking the former Alaska governor if she was reading any newspapers in preparation for her big role, a jab at Palin's 2008 Couric interview blunder.
Palin took it in stride, zinging back, "That's a fine how do you do."
Palin said she'd discuss politics on the show Tuesday, but remained vague.
Wissot says Palin needs to stay away from picking primary favorites on the talk show and instead focus on Obama's record in office.
"If she chooses to be political, the best message would be to focus on how President Obama has divided America," Wissot says. "He promised us that he would become a post-partisan president, and that we would bring us together. We all wanted to believe that he could deliver. But it simply has not happened, and Americans are no more united than they were before he took office. That is what she should say."
No matter how she performs Tuesday, though, Wissot says that Palin's no longer a liability to the conservatives who support her.
"The Republican Party is much bigger than any one leader or spokesperson," Wissot says. "At this point, whatever professional decisions Governor Palin makes will only have an impact on her own image. The GOP is no longer bound to her fate."
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