NEW YORK — Viewers who fantasized about potshots being volleyed between Sarah Palin and Katie Couric were disappointed Tuesday morning. Both women did their own thing in their respective morning-show guest spots.
Palin was the much-hyped guest co-host on NBC's "Today," going head-to-head against former "Today" anchor Katie Couric, who this week is subbing on "Good Morning America" at her current workplace, ABC.
Greeting Palin, host Matt Lauer joked that as part of the "Today" team, she was briefly including herself in the "lamestream media" she often rails about.
But Couric, with whom Palin has a particular beef after a bruising 2008 interview as the GOP vice presidential candidate, went unmentioned.
The closest reference to that face-off, which took place when Couric anchored the "CBS Evening News": Palin was first glimpsed Tuesday on the "Today" show couch with her face buried in newspapers. It was a good-sport nod to an embarrassing moment from the Couric interview, when Palin couldn't name any newspapers she regularly read, instead replying that she read "all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years."
Over on "GMA," Couric was having fun in a video of taking a tour outside ABC's Times Square Studio, where, at Madam Tussauds, she approached a wax statue of her former "Today" sidekick Al Roker and inquired, "How's the weather in your neck of the woods?"
If Couric is a veteran in the morning-show world, Palin, who briefly was a local-TV sportscaster and currently is a contributor to Fox News Channel, displayed natural poise as part of the "Today" crew.
She participated in a party-planning segment with actress-reality star Tori Spelling and in a conversation with experts on raising teenage girls.
She joined in the "Today's Professionals" panel with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Star Jones and Donny Deutsch. Addressing the question whether Ashton Kutcher has the acting chops to portray Apple mastermind Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, Palin said, "Do any of you here have experience with people being paid a lot of money to pretend like they're you?"
She was talking about the recent HBO film "Game Change," in which Julianne Moore portrayed her in the 2008 campaign.
"I didn't see the movie," the former Alaska governor hastily noted, "and I wouldn't waste my time seeing the movie."
On the topic of whether the pregnant Jessica Simpson is being unfairly criticized for her weight gain, Palin made no bones about what she would have thought about anyone targeting her with such criticism: "I would have wanted to punch 'em in the neck."
Before stepping in as a guest co-host, Palin sat down with Lauer in the show's first hour in a more familiar role: talking about conservative politics.
Though she didn't sound too gung-ho about the prospect of Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate, she insisted that anyone is better than Barack Obama in the White House.
Anybody, she said, "would be infinitely better than what we have today."
"I would warn voters to never put their faith wholly in an individual politician," she cautioned, "because a politician will disappoint you. But have faith in what that politician stands for, what their record represents."
When Lauer asked her why voters should put Obama out of office when recent signs suggest things are improving under his economic policies, Palin replied, "They aren't getting better fast enough."
Palin's appearance is part of a nonstop campaign waged by "Today" to protect its 15-year winning streak over "GMA," a fight intensifying as the audience margin between the two rivals steadily erodes.
Palin's booking appeared to be a counterpunch after ABC announced Couric's weeklong morning show return on ABC.
Another much-plugged feature was "a big NBC announcement" by ubiquitous TV personality Ryan Seacrest. Originally set for Tuesday's show, it was delayed until Wednesday as Seacrest recovers from elbow surgery.
In hyping Palin's appearance, NBC promised she would "reveal a different side" than viewers have seen before.
Maybe so. Still identified with her red blazers, Palin on "Today" was trim in black accented with a red scarf, with her hair down and lightly frosted.
An image makeover? Maybe. But she acknowledged that her 2008 campaign association with a TV leading lady besides Couric still holds strong nearly four years later: Palin said a woman had stopped her outside NBC earlier and asked where she was headed.
"'I said 30 Rock,' and she said, 'Oh, honey, come here! I told you: Tina Fey is here!'"