Sunday, May 23, 2010

Palin's Star-Power Undimmed

An article in the Indiana Gazette:

As a vice presidential hopeful two years ago, Sarah Palin drew passion and loyalty from the Republican base even before there was a Tea Party movement.

And though her rhetoric is still red meat, her political tactics have become far more nuanced — more opportunist, say her critics — than fans or foes expected.

The former Alaska governor left office 17 months before her term was up to canvass the Lower 48 so she could leverage her book-tour-burnished brand to help selected — and at times unpredictable — Republicans.

Her picks are a somewhat quixotic blend of traditional candidates and rogue, popular conservatives like Kentucky Senate hopeful Rand Paul.

But her endorsements are undoubtedly helpful.

Palin is the party's biggest star. She draws audiences who pay $50 and $100 to see her speak. And her facile monikers like ``mama grizzlies'' and ``pink elephants'' go viral within hours.

``She has morphed from this very controversial vice presidential candidate who most people thought hurt (John) McCain into this phenom,'' said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. ``She's everywhere, doing everything — all the media interviews, the $100,000 speeches.''

In the past several weeks, she also has taken to boosting conservative women to office — a role many observers say the Republican Party desperately needs.

``It's certainly been the weakness in the Republican Party; they haven't done that well among women,'' said Gary Jacobson, a political-science professor at the University of California, San Diego. ``It's a niche that hasn't been filled by anyone else.''

Speaking at a lunch last week, Palin touted Carly Fiorina for California's U.S. Senate seat, Nikki Haley for South Carolina governor and Colorado U.S. Senate hopeful Jane Norton.

Norton says she is proud to be mentioned in a speech but doesn't expect an official endorsement from Palin.

``I think Sarah Palin plays an indispensable role in the 2010 elections because she challenges the good ol' boys,'' Norton said. ``Just like me.''

Tried-and-true conservatives — those who enthusiastically got behind McCain in 2008 because of Palin's presence on the ticket — say Palin has a more confused role in Republican politics now.

``In some ways, she seems more party-line than she was before,'' said Lu Busse, chair of the 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition.

``People are scratching their heads; these endorsements don't seem to match up. ... She's an enigma, and she's inconsistent. When she doesn't pick the most conservative one in the race, well, then I don't understand.''

Though Palin's future may not include presidential politics, political scientists say her star status will be a boon to Republicans for years to come.

``She's avant-garde. She's a feminist. She cuts a dashing figure. There aren't that many leading Republicans that do that,'' Sabato said. ``Think Mitch McConnell or John Boehner. When you see them coming on, you know it's nap time.

''Whether you love her or you hate her, you don't go to sleep when Sarah Palin comes on,`` Sabato said.


This is what cracks me up. If the media had actually objectively done their research, they would have already known that Palin is much more "nuanced" than even conservatives give her credit for.

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