- - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sarah Palin was the much-hyped guest co-host on NBC’s “Today,” going head-to-head against former “Today” anchor Katie Couric, who this week is subbing on “Good Morning America” at her current workplace, ABC.

Greeting Mrs. Palin, host Matt Lauer joked that as part of the “Today” team, she was briefly including herself in the “lamestream media” she often rails about.

But Ms. Couric, with whom Mrs. Palin has a particular beef after a bruising 2008 interview as the GOP vice-presidential candidate, went unmentioned.

The closest reference to that faceoff, which took place when Ms. Couric anchored the “CBS Evening News”: Mrs. Palin was first glimpsed Tuesday on the “Today” show couch with her face buried in newspapers. It was a good-sport nod to an embarrassing moment from the Couric interview when Mrs. Palin couldn’t name any newspapers she read regularly, instead replying that she read “all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.”

Mrs. Palin, who briefly was a local-TV sportscaster and currently is a contributor to Fox News Channel, displayed natural poise as part of the “Today” crew.

She participated in a party-planning segment with actress-reality star Tori Spelling and in a conversation with advisers on raising teenage girls.

She joined in the “Today’s Professionals” panel with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Star Jones and Donny Deutsch. Addressing the question whether Ashton Kutcher has the acting chops to portray Apple mastermind Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, Mrs. Palin said, “Do any of you here have experience with people being paid a lot of money to pretend like they’re you?”

She was talking about the HBO film “Game Change,” in which Julianne Moore portrays her in the 2008 campaign.

“I didn’t see the movie,” the former Alaska governor hastily noted, “and I wouldn’t waste my time seeing the movie.”

On the topic of whether the pregnant Jessica Simpson is being unfairly criticized for her weight gain, Mrs. Palin made no bones about what she would have thought about anyone targeting her with such criticism: “I would have wanted to punch ‘em in the neck.”

Before stepping in as a guest co-host, Mrs. Palin sat down with Mr. Lauer in the show’s first hour in a more familiar role: talking about conservative politics.

Though she didn’t sound too gung-ho about the prospect of Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate, she said anybody “would be infinitely better” than Barack Obama in the White House.

Mrs. Palin’s appearance is part of a nonstop campaign waged by “Today” to protect its 15-year winning streak over “GMA,” a fight intensifying as the audience margin between the two rivals steadily erodes.

Mrs. Palin’s booking appeared to be a counterpunch after ABC announced Ms. Couric’s weeklong morning show return on ABC.

Still identified with her red blazers, Mrs. Palin on “Today” was trim in black accented with a red scarf, with her hair down and lightly frosted.

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