Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book launches Sarah Palin's second coming

By DeWayne Wickham

This is Day 2 of Sarah Palin's second coming.

Monday, she was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, an appearance that jump-started her return to the national spotlight. Today Palin's book, Going Rogue: An American Life, presales of which made it a best-seller more than a month before its release, will be in bookstores.

The former Alaska governor was first propelled into the national spotlight in August 2008 when Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked her as his running mate. But what started out as a rapid ascent onto the national political stage with her speech at the Republican National Convention quickly nose-dived three weeks later with her disastrous interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

When Democrat Barack Obama defeated McCain in the November election, Palin seemed destined to end up as a historical footnote: the first female vice presidential candidate on a GOP ticket.

Instead, Palin — the darling of many conservatives — seems to be in full dress rehearsal for the 2012 presidential election. Since resigning Alaska's governorship in July, she appears to have busied herself with plotting for a return to the big stage. Though most failed vice presidential candidates quietly exit the political arena, Palin will use her book to skirmish with those in the news media who crossed her and to complain loudly about how she was mistreated and mishandled by members of McCain's campaign staff.

The conventional wisdom is that Palin is wasting her time that this is not a path that'll lead her to the GOP nomination, or get her into the White House without an invitation. I'm not so sure.

Winning elections is about being able to campaign. It's not about whether you can govern. That's especially true of the quest for a party's presidential nomination. Palin's unannounced campaign for the GOP nomination begins in earnest Wednesday. She will depart on a three-week book tour that is scheduled to take her to at least seven battleground states to hawk her book and, no doubt, to test the presidential waters.

While a lot of news media folks, and members of Washington's elite, see Palin as a political lightweight who gets by on her good looks as well as the novelty of being a female first, to the GOP's social conservatives she is a favored standard-bearer for the next presidential race.

In a recent Gallup Poll about possible Republican candidates, Palin came in a close second to Mike Huckabee among GOP voters. When asked whom they would "seriously consider supporting" in the 2012 presidential election, 71% said they could possibly back Huckabee, while 65% said the same about Palin and Mitt Romney.

If these numbers hold or increase in the coming months, Palin will force other Republican contenders to move to the right to win a nomination process that's controlled by the GOP's right wing, even as the political middle has become the important swing vote in the general election.

While Palin is far from a shoo-in to lead the Republican effort to unseat Obama, she isn't a stalking horse, either. She has voter appeal, an underestimated savvy and now, thanks to her best-selling book, a level of personal wealth — something serious candidates must have.

She also has enough time to crash and burn, or to be shot down by enemies. But the attention Sarah Palin is generating this week leaves little doubt that she has undergone a political resurrection.

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