Washington, Oct 2 : People who know Sarah Palin, and have watched her swift rise from small-town mayor to Alaska Governor to history-making vice presidential nominee, say she needs to be herself in her debate Thursday with her Democrat rival Joe Biden even if it means slipping up or appearing to fall out of step with John McCain's campaign.
"What I would tell her is ... Let Sarah be Sarah," FOX News quoted Palin's former pollster David Dittman, as saying.
The first-term Republican Governor has struggled in high-profile interviews over the past week, becoming fodder for late-night comedy and leading some prominent conservatives to question her credentials to be second in command.
But Palin's talents as an orator, and as a debater, are well established in Alaska. Those who crossed paths with her during her successful 2006 gubernatorial campaign extol her ability to speak plainly and convincingly and connect with ordinary people.
"She's very self-confident, very self-assured, and she's very aware. She's in tune. She's not guessing or adrift," said Dittman, who worked on Palin's 2006 campaign.
Dittman said the Palin of 2008 needs to tap the Palin of 2006.
McCain's campaign has faced heavy criticism recently for over-managing his running mate, cutting her off from the media and appearing to set her on a rigid path of talking points.
Dittman cited Palin's latest interviews with CBS News' Katie Couric as an example of the candidate second-guessing herself out of a desire to stay on message.
Palin struggled in the CBS interview last week to explain her claim that Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience.
Clark, who briefly worked for Palin's legislative team before joining the Alaska House speaker's office, said the difference between the Palin of two years ago and today is "night and day."
"She has a charm, a charisma and an incredible ability to establish rapport with viewers. ... (in) 2006 she was far more comfortable with reporters," he said.
Palin told FOX News' Sean Hannity in a radio interview on Wednesday that "everything is going well" and she's been studying up on voting records, "realizing how extremely liberal the other ticket is."
She said the debate will offer a clear choice and give her an opportunity to speak directly to Americans without that filter of mainstream media trying to ... maybe censor some of my comments as we lay out those contrasts.