PI Original Adam Doster Wednesday October 1st, 2008, 11:05am

Rep. Kirk: "I Don't Know" If Palin Is Qualified To Be Prez

As we noted in the Early Bird, Rep. Mark Kirk is now expressing skepticism about John McCain's running mate. When asked if Alaska Gov. Sarah
Palin had the qualifications to become president, the North Shore Republican told the Tribune editorial board
yesterday: "Quite ...

As we noted in the Early Bird, Rep. Mark Kirk is now expressing skepticism about John McCain's running mate. When asked if Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had the qualifications to become president, the North Shore Republican told the Tribune editorial board yesterday: "Quite frankly, I don't know." When pressed further, he told the assembled reporters "I would have picked someone different."

But one month ago, Kirk was signing a different tune.

Talking to the Tribune on September 1, he described himself as "encouraged" by the pick. In an September 2 interview on WLS' Don Wade And Roma In The Morning, Kirk praised the governor for her ethics crusading nature. Listen below:

Internal mp3

It seems to be a very much an ego-free zone for her … [T]he governor also took on the old corrupt Republican bulls in Alaska. Fired a bunch of them, some of them are now going to jail, including possibly Sen. Stevens. She seems pretty fearless on taking out the old guard. [...]

There's a lot of guts on both sides for McCain and Palin. So they've got their share of enemies.  But sometimes you're marked in public life by who you've taken out.  And certainly in the Oval Office and generally in an administration you want a fearless team.

One day before, on September 1, WIND's Big John Howell and Cisco Cotto asked Kirk about Palin's experience directly. Here's what the 10th District incumbent had to say:

Internal mp3

HOWELL: How can you convince me -- a guy who is not a far-right social conservative Republican -- to really consider her one heart beat away from the Presidency?

KIRK: She’s obviously an unknown figure, but she has had a rocket sled of a career already in Alaska. I think as governor, obviously she does have more executive experience -- ironically -- than the three other guys on the ticket. Her big asset, though, will be on the campaign. We have seen Sen. Obama now standing forth as a recognized national figure, but his greatest achievement has been his own campaign, and being able to command and defeat the electorate and push Hillary Clinton to the side. We now will look at Sarah Palin. She did very well in her first time out when she was nominated by Sen. McCain. It was a risky strategy.

Palin is no doubt drawing big crowds on the trail and volunteers to local McCain offices, but it's tough to say whether, on balance, she's been "a big asset" on the campaign. Her constant fumbling in recent interviews and broader reluctance to speak to reporters has turned off a lot of voters:

One of Palin's problems has been perceptions of her experience. In an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll conducted during the first half of September, 61 percent said they did not think Palin — governor for less than two years and former small-town mayor — has the right experience to be president. That view has changed little in more recent surveys.

Polls also show Palin's image, while positive overall, has begun to erode. While an NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey in early September showed more people viewing her favorably than unfavorably by 20 percentage points, that gap faded to 6 points by last week. Similarly, her net positive rating in a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll shrunk from 27 points in early September to 11 points a week ago.

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