Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will speak at her son’s Army deployment ceremony on 9/11 and spend two days with ABC News crews later this week as part of a McCain campaign plan to increase Americans’ comfort with her as a leader.
Campaign and network officials had said on Sunday that her first television interview would be a sit-down with Charles Gibson of ABC’s “World News.”
But it turns out that she is spending much of Thursday and Friday with Gibson — at the ceremony in Fairbanks, Alaska, and at her home in Wasilla, Alaska.
Campaign aides said the anchorman will get extensive, repeated access to Palin throughout her first trip home since becoming the nominee.
“ABC News will have plenty of time to question her and examine her and spend time with her,” a campaign official said. “They’ll do multiple interviews over two days. No topics are off-limits – there are no ground rules. There’s tons of time to talk to her about every topic.”
The remarkable rollout reflects new confidence in Palin by her handlers, who initially had suggested it would be a while before she did interviews. Now, there will be several.
Until now, Palin has been "sequestered," as Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.), her Democratic counterpart, put it on NBC's "Meet the Press" — delivering rousing speeches, but not giving interviews or holding news conferences or answering questions on the fly. She was the only one of the four national candidates not to appear on a Sunday show this weekend.
“Once you start, you don’t stop,” a Republican official said with a chuckle. “That doesn’t mean you run the faucet on high. But once you turn it on, you don’t really ever turn it off.”
The strategy carries risk. ABC is war-gaming tough questions – not gotchas, but some requiring policy knowledge — with the thoroughness that a network prepares for a debate.
The remarkable offer to ABC, made last Friday, is part of an ambitious project to sell Palin well beyond the right — to a broad swath of women and independent voters, including former supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
“I see women right at the forefront of that, but not exclusively,” a campaign adviser said.
The official said Gibson will have the chance to “speak to her on 9/11 about her ideas for keeping America safe in the future; to speak to her as she goes back to Wasilla, where she grew up, about her life and her views and her vision for the country.”
Two interviews with Gibson are planned for Thursday, including a conversation about her support for a natural-gas pipeline – a key applause line in her convention speech. Then on Friday, Palin will spend “as much time as both parties need” in Wasilla and Anchorage, the official said. She will fly into Anchorage and then drive to Wasilla.
Palin riveted last week’s Republican National Convention with a witty, rousing speech, and has injected huge excitement into the party’s ticket in the 10 days since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named her as his surprise pick for running mate.
“People don’t understand how to cover women politicians in a way that is completely fair and enlightened yet,” the official said. “And somehow, she has managed to transcend that.”
Christian conservatives were immediately thrilled by McCain’s choice, and his events took on new electricity.
Asked to describe her appeal, one official said: “I think she is accessible. I think she is honest. I think she is real, and I think she is fearless. In Alaska, she has been such a target because she has always fought for the interests of her constituents, because they’re her neighbors.”
The campaign adviser said: “She’s just this real, identifiable, approachable, funny, smart woman.”
Officials wouldn’t say how the ABC anchor was chosen. “There were lots of tremendous and credible and fair journalists to choose from,” an aide said. “Somebody had to go first.”