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McCain Camp Quietly Ramps Up Palin’s Media Exposure

Since the vice presidential debate last week, the McCain campaign has quietly increased Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s availability to the media. Instead of high-profile interviews with network anchors, she is favoring local reporters, much like her running mate. She sat down for a one-one-one interview with a Florida television reporter yesterday. Her schedule today is peppered with several local media interviews in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Local interviews are usually less risky than network appearances. If one doesn’t go well, the fallout is largely restricted to the viewing area — though YouTube is obviously changing this.

Also, questions tend to be softer and more locally focused, such as: “Why is Florida important in this election?”

Of course, as Sen. John McCain can tell you, this isn’t always the case.

The other obvious benefit is that lower-profile interviews give Palin some much-needed practice, so she can avoid the deer-in-headlights moments that drew so much attention during her interviews with Katie Couric.

Last night, as the political world’s attention was on second presidential debate in Nashville, Palin held her first real news conference with reporters aboard her campaign plane. During the 15-minute exchange, Palin attempted to rename the “Troopergate” investigation as “Tasergate” — a reference to the “Tasering” of her nephew by the state trooper at the center of the controversy, Palin’s former brother-in-law.

She also took a question about her criticism of Sen. Barack Obama for his ties to former Weatherman William Ayers. From CBS’ Scott Conroy:

Asked why she has been focusing her remarks over the last few days on the questionable connection between Barack Obama and 1960s radical William Ayers, rather than on the tanking economy, Palin defended her tactic.

“Well, Americans are caring about the problems in the economy, of course, and wanting to know what those long-term solutions are that our ticket can provide and what the other ticket is proposing,” Palin said. “So when you talk though about what it is that we are proposing and what it is that Barack Obama is proposing, again it is relevant to connect that association that he has with Ayers, not so much he as a person—Ayers—but the whole situation and the truthfulness and the judgment there that you must question if again he’s not being forthright in all of his answers as to how did you know him, when did you know him, why would you continue to be associated with him?”

When asked directly by a reporter, Palin denied that she was suggesting Obama was dishonest. But she did seem to question the Democrat’s integrity during another portion of the news conference.

“It makes you wonder about the forthrightedness (sic), the truthfulness of the plans that he is telling America in regards to the economic recovery because that is first and foremost on American’s minds,” Palin said.

Whether the McCain campaign will risk putting her back in front of the national “mainstream media” remains to be seen. The recent interviews may reflect a new media strategy — limit her availability to just the local press in highly contested regions, where there is the least risk and the most potential benefit.

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