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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HERE'S . . . BARACK

Obama to Play The Leno Card

Late-night comedy shows have become a standard pit stop for presidential candidates, who hope to humanize themselves -- and reach a broader audience -- by displaying an actual sense of humor.

But is it a wise move for a sitting president? At a time when he's struggling with a tanking economy and a banking bailout mess?

The White House has decided the answer is yes. On Thursday evening in Burbank, Calif., President Obama will take his comedy stylings to Jay Leno's show.

The move is certain to grab attention. Vice President Al Gore hammered an ashtray to smithereens in 1993 on "The Late Show with David Letterman" -- making a long-forgotten point about ashtray regulations -- and appeared with Letterman and Leno during his White House bid in 2000.

When Sen. John McCain blew off Letterman during last year's campaign, he had to return to the CBS show for a makeup interview.

There are benefits for NBC's "Tonight Show" as well, especially as Leno prepares for a nightly 10 p.m. program that debuts this fall. Obama is a ratings magnet, and Leno is likely to draw big numbers on Thursday. Obama probably won't face a "60 Minutes"-style grilling, either.

Can a "Daily Show" appearance be far behind? Maybe Obama should consult with Jim Cramer first.

-- Howard Kurtz

STAR POWER

GOP Dinner Will Feature Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will serve as the keynote speaker at the GOP congressional committees' annual fundraising dinner in June, helping the party fill its coffers in an otherwise tough climate for collecting cash.

The gala, which will take place June 8 at the Washington Convention Center, is the main fundraising event of the year for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which will divvy up the proceeds from the dinner. In a normal year the gathering would be expected to raise more than $10 million, and the 2008 vice presidential nominee's popularity among party activists should ensure that the two committees bring in a good haul. Without control of Congress or the White House, the Republicans will need all the star power they can get to combat the huge fundraising advantage Democrats will enjoy in this election cycle.

"Governor Palin has quickly emerged as one of the most popular and recognizable faces in the Republican Party. . . . Last fall, she electrified and energized crowds across the country, and we expect she will generate a similar amount of enthusiasm at this spring's dinner," the NRSC chairman, Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), said in a statement announcing the program. The NRCC chief, Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.), called Palin "one of the brightest rising stars" in the party.

Word of the planned speech comes three weeks after Palin drew notice for skipping the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, leading to speculation that she was focusing on her work at home and looking to lower her national profile (temporarily, anyway). Though extremely popular with the Republican base, Palin is a somewhat controversial figure among the national electorate. A Newsweek poll taken in early March found she had a 44 percent favorable rating and a 42 percent unfavorable mark.

-- Ben Pershing


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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