CBS’s Smith: Sarah Palin is John McCain’s ‘Geritol’

Harry Smith and Bob Schieffer, CBS On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer about John McCain taking the lead in recent polls following the Republican convention and the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate: "Sarah Palin is his Geritol...That's – I mean it really has -- because I wrote in my notes this morning, she not only energized the base, she seems to have energized him." While seemingly a compliment, such a statement conveniently reminded viewers of McCain's age.

In addition, the segment featured a total of four references to the "social conservative" base of the party that Palin has attracted. Schieffer observed: "But, you know, the interesting thing about this is that John McCain, the maverick that he is, has never been popular with one part of the Republican Party, especially the social conservatives...Now the people who were against him in the Republican Party seem to like him just fine." Smith added: "These are the Rove-cultivated religious right, so important to George Bush." Schieffer concluded: "Evangelicals, social conservatives. Now, John McCain has suddenly become their favorite and he was never that before. That can only be good for him in a political sense...And I think what we've seen here, she has gotten those social conservatives in the Republican Party who were never for him. How are independents going to feel on this down the road?"

Earlier in the segment, Smith and Schieffer made sure to suggest that the success of McCain-Palin was only temporary:

SCHIEFFER: John McCain the fighter pilot, not afraid to put it up on the line and it seems to have come out well and-

SMITH: Right, in the short term.

SCHIEFFER: In the short term. I mean, it just underlines again there's nothing quite as important as a good first impression. We don't know how long this is going to last, but people seem to like her and they really like the speech that she made.

However, it seems to be the newness of Barack Obama that is losing its luster at this point in the campaign.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:02AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Let's talk about the race for the White House. A new CBS News poll shows John McCain coming out of the Republican convention with a two-point lead over Barack Obama. He erased a three-point margin held by Senator Obama before the two conventions. And joining us is CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer. Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: So, read the tea leaves here this morning. The Democrats -- you've been to a million of these conventions, both were very exciting, very dramatic, but in just a week's time, a five-point shift. Who would of predicted it?

SCHIEFFER: You know, and that's interesting but I think what's really interesting is this enthusiasm gap. You know? There were so many Republicans, especially, that weren't enthusiastic about John McCain. I just wrote down some notes here. They are now -- voters are twice as enthusiastic, people who were for McCain. Only 24% of Republicans were enthusiastic, now 42% are enthusiastic about McCain's candidacy. That has to be his choice of Sarah Palin.

SMITH: Sarah Palin is his geritol.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

SMITH: That's -- I mean it really has -- because I wrote in my notes this morning, she not only energized the base, she seems to have energized him. I watched his interview with you Sunday morning. He was on message, totally involved as sort of centered and on the beam as I've seen him in a long time.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think that's right. And I think he was very pleased with himself. And I don't mean that in an uncomplimentary way. I mean, this was a real risk to pick her, but is this is old John McCain the fighter pilot, not afraid to put it up on the line and it seems to have come out well and-

SMITH: Right, in the short term.

SCHIEFFER: In the short term. I mean, it just underlines again there's nothing quite as important as a good first impression. We don't know how long this is going to last, but people seem to like her and they really like the speech that she made.

SMITH: And if you're in the Obama camp, you're watching this happen. You're watching all the momentum shift in that direction. Do you stay the course? Do you -- you know what? I'm wondering what they're thinking this morning.

SCHIEFFER: So far, they have stayed the course, but I'm told they are rethinking. Just what you said, Harry, that they -- I think they were a little stunned by this. Like I think most people are. But, you know, the interesting thing about this is that John McCain, the maverick that he is, has never been popular with one part of the Republican Party, especially the social conservatives.

SMITH: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: Remember the -- you know he called Jerry Falwell an 'agent of intolerance' in 2000. Now the people who were against him in the Republican Party seem to like him just fine. He's just split that.

SMITH: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: So, this was-

SMITH: These are the Rove-cultivated religious right, so important to George Bush.

SCHIEFFER: Evangelicals, social conservatives. Now, John McCain has suddenly become their favorite and he was never that before. That can only be good for him in a political sense.

SMITH: So many of these states, so close, so many states, up for grabs. This goes back to the old saw again. This really will be who gets the vote out, if it's this close. If it's this close now, you got to believe it'll be this close two months from now.

SCHIEFFER: I think it is absolutely dead even by anyway you measure it now. I think there are still a lot of undecideds out there, who get those votes. And I think what we've seen here, she has gotten those social conservatives in the Republican Party who were never for him. How are independents going to feel on this down the road? Very good first impression, now she's got to build on that.

SMITH: Yeah, there you go. Bob Schieffer, who will be back with us in our next hour to talk about his brand new book. Good to see you Bob, we'll see you in a little bit.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC