CBS’s Smith: Is Sarah Palin a ‘Drag’ on the Republican Ticket?

Harry Smith, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to former Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn and former Bush advisor Karen Hughes and asked about Sarah Palin’s effect on the presidential race: "Well, give us some perspective, Karen Hughes, first, on Sarah Palin, turned the world on its ear when her nomination was announced. It now seems, would you agree or disagree. Is it -- is it still a positive? Or is it beginning to be a drag on the Republican nominee?"

Smith went on to cite a new ABC News poll that gives Barack Obama a nine point lead over John McCain and asked Penn: "How do you explain it?" Penn replied: "Well, Sarah Palin's not going to help in an economic crisis. I think what the people are seeing is that there -- there is a 3:00 A.M. call here, and it's an economic crisis. They think -- they see Obama answering that. He's the kind of person who can be a president in a complex situation like this economic crisis, a manager. And I think that's changing the polls." Rather than challenge Penn’s assertions, Smith wanted to move on, but not Hughes:

HUGHES: Also, even the New York Times conceded, though, that he has no record on these kind of issues-

SMITH: Alright, well let's-

HUGHES: Senator McCain does have a record-

SMITH: Okay, let's talk about-

HUGHES: Back in 2006 championing reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

SMITH: Let's talk about states.

Prior to the segment with Hughes and Penn, correspondent Bill Plante reported on Palin’s meetings with world leaders in New York: "Today, more meetings, the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine, of Pakistan and Iraq. All this, in preparation -- a sort of crash course in foreign affairs, for the vice presidential debates next week." Plante clearly demonstrated media displeasure at not being granted broader access to Palin during those meetings: "In the meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Governor Palin chatted about Karzai's 18-month-old son for the few seconds that a camera was allowed in the room." Plante later added: "As mayor and then governor, Palin has had no foreign policy experience. But her foreign policy advisor says the very public meetings in New York are serious and not just for show."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Palin pumps up her foreign policy portfolio. The V.P. nominee goes one-on-one with world leaders. How did she do?

STEPHEN BIEGUN: This was a great opportunity to begin forming some relationships that are going to be very important for her.

7:07AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: A Second day of meetings with world leaders in New York today for Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is at the U.N. with more. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. Well, she never actually set foot in the United Nations, but she is meeting with some of the world's major players who are in New York this week. In the meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Governor Palin chatted about Karzai's 18-month-old son for the few seconds that a camera was allowed in the room. Palin's advisors said she and Karzai did discuss the security situation and Karzai later told an audience that Palin had asked the right questions on Afghanistan.

HAMID KARZAI: She was concerned, and she asked how she could help. So I'm very pleased with that meeting.

PLANTE: Following a meeting with Colombian President Uribe, aides said that the Governor and Uribe had discussed trade. Then it was on to an hour-long session with former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who while cameras were rolling talked about the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia. As mayor and then governor, Palin has had no foreign policy experience. But her foreign policy advisor says the very public meetings in New York are serious and not just for show.

STEPHEN BIEGUN: This was a great opportunity to begin forming some relationships that are going to be very important for her if her and John McCain win the election in November.

PLANTE: So, more important to be here than to be out on the campaign trail, do you think?

BIEGUN: Well, certainly the responsibilities of the Vice President of the United States are on day one.

PLANTE: Today, more meetings, the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine, of Pakistan and Iraq. All this, in preparation -- a sort of crash course in foreign affairs, for the vice presidential debates next week. So that Palin will able to look Joe Biden in the eye and say, 'well, when I was talking to the president of Iraq last week.' Harry.

SMITH: That's a good thing to be able to say. Bill Plante at the U.N. this morning, thanks. We are joined now by Karen Hughes, former counselor to President Bush and Mark Penn, former chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. On the opposite sides of the political aisle, they now work together -- politics makes strange bed fellows. We won't take it all the way to that extreme. You decided to get into business with each other because?

MARK PENN: Well, because we give people a 360-degree perspective of the world.

SMITH: There you go. Well, give us some perspective, Karen Hughes, first, on Sarah Palin, turned the world on its ear when her nomination was announced. It now seems, would you agree or disagree. Is it -- is it still a positive? Or is it beginning to be a drag on the Republican nominee?

KAREN HUGHES: Oh, I think it's absolutely been a positive. I hear from people all over the United States that stop me in airports and say 'how about that Sarah Palin.' They're -- she's energized the party. I think most importantly, though, she's reminded people of who John McCain is, and that he's a reformer. She in her own state took on the status quo, took on the good old boys, took on the -- took on even her own party, which I think gives a lot of credibility and reminded people that John McCain is the reformer at a time when Washington pretty -- certainly looks like it needs reform.

SMITH: But we look at the brand new poll numbers this morning, nationwide poll numbers, and all of a sudden, Barack Obama has jumped out to this nine-point lead. How do you explain it?

MARK PENN: Well, Sarah Palin's not going to help in an economic crisis. I think what the people are seeing is that there -- there is a 3:00 A.M. call here, and it's an economic crisis. They think -- they see Obama answering that. He's the kind of person who can be a president in a complex situation like this economic crisis, a manager. And I think that's changing the polls.

SMITH: Alright.

HUGHES: Also, even the New York Times conceded, though, that he has no record on these kind of issues-

SMITH: Alright, well let's-

HUGHES: Senator McCain does have a record-

SMITH: Okay, let's talk about-

HUGHES: Back in 2006 championing reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

SMITH: Let's talk about states. Everybody knows -- everybody knows it gets right down to the states, some of these states are too close to call. Very quickly in a word -- will Barack Obama take Ohio?

PENN: Well, I think now, Ohio has always conflicted between values and economy. But if economy's the number one issue, the depressed and problematic economic conditions in Ohio will win you over.

SMITH: Karen Hughes, make your best argument, because I have to put it.

HUGHES: I will remind people that Barack Obama had trouble carrying Ohio against Mark's last client, Senator Clinton. He only carried, I think, five of the 88 counties. I do believe that Ohio will go to Senator McCain, it will be because of those small town values voters as well as because I think the voters of America will conclude that Senator McCain is the candidate to handle this economic crisis because he is the candidate for reform.

SMITH: I wanted a definitive answer. I've got to know if I'm going to put it down for red or blue or -- okay assume for a second-

HUGHES: It's red, McCain.

PENN: It's a blue.

SMITH: Assume a second -- it's blue. Alright, how about -- let's go next to Virginia. Right? Another one. Really too close to call. Karen, you first, tell me why.

HUGHES: Senator McCain will carry Virginia. I think the choice of Sarah Palin will help him there, with women, with moderate, with main stream voters. His record as a reformer-

SMITH: And it's gone that way forever and ever and ever.

HUGHES: A lot of military families in Virginia, a lot of people concerned about security.

SMITH: Mark, Mark?

PENN: People have moved into northern Virginia now. Democrats have been winning elections. They won the governorship. They beat one of the -- one of the most promising candidates-

SMITH: Not good enough. Okay, Florida. Real quick -- Karen Hughes.

HUGHES: Governor's a strong supporter of Senator McCain. Energized base with Sarah Palin. Senator Lieberman's strong advocacy of Senator McCain at the Republican convention with Jewish voters.

SMITH: Mark, Mark?

PENN: Seniors are going to be worried about their retirement funds in the economic crisis. Going to switch over now to Barack Obama.

SMITH: Too close to call. Thank you very much, Mark Penn, Karen Hughes, good to see you.

PENN: Thank you.

HUGHES: An exciting election.

SMITH: Really great to have you with us.

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