Sarah Palin has been very good for the career of Tina Fey.
But the “Saturday Night Live” guest star isn’t returning the favor for the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Two new polls find that Mrs. Palin and running mate Sen. John McCain have lost ground in recent days among independent voters - precisely the demographic that the “outsider/maverick/hockey mom” was supposed to attract. And the numbers suggest that Miss Fey’s uncanny impersonation of the Alaska governor is playing a role.
About 33 percent of independents said the “Tina Fey effect” is hurting the McCain-Palin ticket, compared with 9 percent who said it was helpful, a Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports survey says. The figures were nearly identical among independents in the survey.
The Emmy Award-winning Miss Fey and the NBC show, however, are on a roll.
Ratings for the 33-year-old show are up 49 percent compared with a year ago, and NBC plans to run three prime-time editions of the show’s “Weekend Update” news spoof. Miss Fey, who also recently won an Emmy for her work on the sitcom “30 Rock,” has just signed a multimillion-dollar contract for a humor book to be published by Little, Brown Book Group.
The McCain campaign has struggled to find the right tone in neutralizing the impact of the Tina Fey parodies, which at times have quoted the Alaska governor verbatim to comedic effect.
Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, an adviser to the McCain campaign, said in an interview last month on MSNBC that the “Saturday Night Live” skits were “dismissive” toward Mrs. Palin while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, played by actress Amy Poehler, was shown as a substantive — if humorless — public figure.
“I think that continues the line of argument that is disrespectful in the extreme and, yes, I would say sexist,” Mrs. Fiorina said.
Mrs. Palin has taken to joking about the caricature in the skits, which have become hits on YouTube and other Internet video sites.
At a campaign rally in Florida on Monday, she explained her widely panned performance in an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric this way: “I was just trying to keep Tina Fey in business, just giving her some information.”
A reporter asked later whether she would like to appear on “Saturday Night Live” and give Miss Fey “a taste of her own medicine.”
“I would love to,” she said with a laugh. “I love her. She’s a hoot and she’s so talented and it would be fun to either imitate her or keep on giving her more material.”
The Oct. 1-2 Rasmussen poll found that 43 percent of independents say Mrs. Palin is “hurting” Mr. McCain’s chances to win the presidency, compared with 35 percent who see her as “helping” and another 22 percent who saw no impact or were not sure. Overall, the poll respondents split about evenly - 40 percent to 41 percent - on whether Mrs. Palin was an asset to the ticket.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken over the weekend also found a sharp shift in sentiment among independents toward Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama. Independents in the poll favored Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain by 42 percent to 38 percent, erasing a 13 percentage point lead for the Republican in the same survey just two weeks earlier.
“It used to be that prospective politicians chose law school as the first step in their career path,” John Feffer wrote in analysis of the rising role of comedians in modern media politics. “Future politicians may skip law school altogether and try out for the ‘Saturday Night Live’ team instead.”