Sarah Palin was a frequent target throughout the two-day summit on politics and media hosted this week by Time Warner. But at one panel discussion Tuesday, even former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd started taking aim.

Dowd, who was chief strategist for Bush in 2004 and also steered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reelection campaign in 2006, said John McCain’s fascination with Palin was evanescent. “It’s like Halloween when you eat all this candy and then you get sick the next day,” he said, drawing a huge laugh. “You might feel excited from eating those seven Snickers bars, but then it goes away.”

The confab at Time Warner’s Gotham HQ involved more than a dozen CNN and Time Inc. staffers, plus other boldface media names from Frank Rich to Dan Rather to Graydon Carter.

Dowd appeared with former Bush and McCain campaigner Mark McKinnon, Time’s Joe Klein, CNN pundit Donna Brazile and Huffington Post and CNN’s Hilary Rosen for a lively look back at the marathon campaign. CNN’s John Roberts moderated.

The Palin pick took up a good 20 minutes of the hour.

Klein said her presence was an “I’ll show you” move by McCain, who decided that Mitt Romney was a “phony.” Dowd argued McCain should have selected Joe Lieberman, something he reportedly considered before being dissuaded by party leaders given the Connecticut senator’s history as a Democrat before a controversial switch.

“The worst thing you can be in this race is a Republican,” Dowd said.

The group gave nearly equal time to Biden, mulling whether Hillary Clinton would have been a viable VP pick for Obama. “It would have still allowed him to make the case that he was the change candidate,” Brazile argued.

One can only wonder how that conversation might have unfolded if one announced panelist wasn’t a last-minute cancellation: Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director.

—By Dade Hayes in New York.