Last held public office: Governor of Alaska, 2006-09
No one commands the adoration or loyalty of John Q. Republican quite like Sarah Palin. Master of folksy quips and pitch-perfect populism, the former vice-presidential candidate has fabulous base appeal. Her personal story of carrying to term a Down syndrome child gives her credibility with antiabortion activists. After a gig with Fox News, two books, a TLC reality show and two years of swarming attention from the national press corps, the Palin brand is as potent as it is ubiquitous.
One of the characteristics that makes Palin so popular with the Republican base is her unshakable one-against-the-world mentality. In Palin's eyes, the "lamestream media," jealous rivals and the good-ol'-boy network are all working to undo her. It's a compelling narrative at a Tea Party rally, but it hasn't much helped her standing elsewhere. Her public spats over the last presidential campaign and controversial endorsements of candidates like Christine O'Donnell in the 2010 midterms haven't endeared Palin to the Republican establishment. Many voters saw a deficit of seriousness in her early departure from Alaska's governorship, and camping trips with Kate Gosselin aren't exactly the best medicine. A January poll found that just 17% of independents nationwide have a favorable view of Palin.
Everybody knows Sarah Palin. That's her greatest asset and biggest flaw. Should she run for the GOP nomination, her name recognition and ability to steal headlines would make her a force. But for all Palin's celebrity, there's no indication the party faithful really want her to be President. Most early polls show her trailing Romney and Mike Huckabee in hypothetical primary matchups, and far behind Obama in the general election. Despite all her media coverage, Palin hasn't built networks of donors and allies on par with the most competitive members of the field.
Representative quote: "We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington ... We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America."
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