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2012 Watch: The Late Night Primary

Palin and Romney go head-to-head on late-night talk.

8:30 AM, Mar 3, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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It's not everyday that two likely candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination appear simultaneously on the top late-night talk shows. But that is what happened last night, with Sarah Palin's appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show and Mitt Romney's on David Letterman's Late Show. I just watched both interviews, which we'll post below the fold.Palin, part one:

Palin, part two:

Romney:


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A few impressions after the second jump.

One, Palin's stint on Jay was one of her better interviews. The questions weren't tough, but the governor was comfortable, articulate, warm, and funny. It also helped that the audience -- or, rather, the vocal part of the audience -- was clearly on her side. And she can tell a joke. This is a talented and charismatic woman who, despite everything, is not to be underestimated.

Two, Romney also seemed relaxed. He faced a more difficult environment, since Letterman is so partisan. But Romney handled the comedian's arguments well. Where he occasionally stumbled was in his use of humor. It seemed as though Romney had a bunch of canned lines that he was waiting to use at the appropriate moments. Some of them were witty. But on occasion the delivery fell flat. Romney was much stronger in making his case that America is at a "tipping point" and must choose between a dynamic, unpredictable, energetic future and one of crushing debt and economic sclerosis.

Which may be the point. After four years of Obama flash, the public may want a smart, savvy former businessman, even if he's a little stiff at times. And Romney's new message of economic opportunity and American exceptionalism suits him. With Romney, though, the problem always has been that his message changes depending on the political circumstances. Will he stick with this one until the end? And will his rising establishment credibility be enough to surmount the obstacles posed by his Massachusetts health care reform and grassroots suspicion of his religious faith?

Both Palin and Romney had good nights. But I wonder if the man who will laugh last already has a talk show of his own.

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