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Sarah Palin takes the host seat on America's most popular morning TV news program

In this Feb. 11, 2012, file photo, former Alaska Gov. and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address to activists from America's political right at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/AP

For former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, whose 2008 vice-presidential candidacy was devastated by a series of embarrassing sit-down TV interviews, the prospect of hosting the most popular morning TV news program in America was too good to pass up.

Ms. Palin took up the invitation to host NBC's "Today" show - just for one morning - in the midst of a TV network war between NBC and ABC over the coveted weekday morning audience.

Over the course of this morning's program, Ms. Palin talked politics, bashed the mainstream media, discussed a pregnant Jessica Simpson's weight gain, and traded motherhood stories with Tori Spelling.

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And on other networks this morning? None other than Katie Couric, who is guest hosting this week on Good Morning America.

The rivalry between the two women goes back to 2008 when then-vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin did a sit-down interview with Katie Couric that showcased Ms. Palin's lack of experience and knowledge about, among other things, U.S. foreign policy.

Alaska's proximity to Russia, as she explained, to Ms. Couric helped her foreign policy grounding. And that is not where it ended. Ms. Palin could not name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe vs. Wade, the court's landmark decision on abortion, that she disagreed with. When asked about a single newspaper or magazine she read regularly, Ms. Palin could not name one.

This morning's Today show began with Matt Lauer introducing his co-host, who, as the camera revealed, was hidden behind an open newspaper, with a pile of more newspapers on her lap.

Ms. Palin is now a regular Fox News contributor and arguably the most influential social conservative voice. On a morning when voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C. take part in Republican primaries, the question of an endorsement for front-runner Mitt Romney was as unsurprising as her answer.

Anybody "would be infinitely better than what we have today," Ms. Palin told her co-host, a an answer seen by many on social media as a dodge.

No long faces in the Romney camp. A Sarah Palin endorsement - or anything that even resembles an endorsement - has eluded the campaign from the very beginning.

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Instead, Ms. Palin has flirted with the idea of endorsing Newt Gingrich and talked about Mr. Romney's conservative credentials as something that is continuously evolving. In other words, Ms. Palin has reflected the unease in the Republican grassroots about Mr. Romney's earlier positions on abortion, as well as the healthcare law he introduced as governor of Massachusetts.

On Tuesday morning, Ms. Palin used the mainstream morning TV platform to deliver a dig at the "lamestream" media.

She explained to her co-host that the eventual vice-presidential nominee - regardless of whether he or she has experience at the national level - would get "clobbered by the lamestream media who does not like the conservative message."

The point was not lost on co-host Matt Lauer, who joked with Ms. Palin: "I want to mention to people you are going to stick around and join us for [the program's]eight o'clock hour, which technically makes you part of the lamestream media for that hour. I just want you to know."

And in case there was any doubt, when asked whether she watched last month's HBO film "Game Change", in which Ms. Palin is depicted as unprepared, uncooperative and verging on a mental breakdown during the 2008 campaign, Ms. Palin said she did not waste her time watching the film.

So how did Ms. Palin fare as a host of morning TV news program?

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"Palin looking at food platters on Today. She seems more relaxed when not talking about politics or Game Change," tweeted Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast and Newsweek Washington bureau chief.

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About the Author

Affan Chowdhry is the Globe's multimedia reporter specializing in foreign news. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked at the BBC World Service in London creating international news and current affairs programs and online content for a global audience. More

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