I'm not a political adviser and I'd rather not make my political leanings in this year's election part of what I write about in this blog, but I feel compelled to apply the Challenge Dividend philosophy to something that is getting a lot of discussion on both sides: Sarah Palin's media interview performance.
By now you've probably heard that Sarah Palin is not the greatest interview subject in the world. Her answers to Katie Couric's questions a few weeks ago are still causing ripples of laughter from YouTube to Saturday Night Live. She is obviously still learning about national politics and campaigning after relative isolation in the friendly confines of Alaska. John McCain knew that going in, and the American people know that she's an outsider. Instead of rolling with the punches, McCain's campaign is now isolating her from the media and she is relegated to whipping up fervor among those who are already firmly in the right wing.
The problem is that by isolating Palin, the campaign is fighting with one hand behind its back. Kirsten Powers wrote in the New York Post recently that "there's only so much ground McCain can cover" and CNN notes that Joe Biden has conducted nearly 100 press interviews since his nomination, compared to Sarah Palin's 3 interviews. This latter point is incredibly important, as each press interview is like free media from a trusted source. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin's approval scores are sinking.
Only through the challenge of the media's harsh glare will Palin have a chance to improve her voice and connect with the undecided voter. Instead of preaching hate for Obama to the converted in Republican rallies, I would send her to the reporters of every one of the critical swing states. With each interview she will learn and improve. If she makes a few mistakes, it won't feel like a novelty. Meanwhile, she will have the platform to bring her campaign's message to millions of people.
After her first interview, my wife made the comment that, "She looks like I felt during my first job interview." I think we all remember those first fearful job interviews in our lives. But we also know that each one made us more comfortable and confident for our next. Eventually we refined our stories, were ready for any questions thrown, and we got the jobs. If Palin wants the job she has to get on the air and get the gaffes out of the way. Otherwise she won't be ready for this job, or the next one.