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Sarah Palin Overexposed: Even Among Conservatives, Her Numbers Drop

5 years ago
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Thursday was not a good day for veteran Washington Post pundit David Broder to write a column praising Sarah Palin. Noting that Alaska governor who quit must be taken "seriously," Broder gushed:

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.

But the same day that Broder was hailing Palin's "pitch-perfect populism" -- without mentioning the demagogic inclinations that led her to decry non-existent "death panels" -- his paper was reporting a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 55 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Palin and, more important, that 71 percent say she is unqualified to be president.

That latter figure is up from the 60 percent who dismissed her as presidential material in November. Meanwhile, Palin's favorable rating slipped to 37 percent, a low for this survey. (Only a dismal 18 percent said they "strongly" hold a favorable view of Palin, while 38 percent reported they "strongly" hold an unfavorable view of her.) Palin even lost ground among conservative Republicans. Less than half -- 45 percent -- consider her qualified to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Last fall, that number was 66 percent.

What does all this mean? Probably that Sarah Palin's publicity blitz of the past few months centered around her book has not bolstered her public standing. As Americans have seen more of Palin, they have lowered their opinion of her.

The PR parade that kicked off with her book was Palin's chance -- as the cliche goes -- to reintroduce herself to her fellow Americans after the unsuccessful 2008 campaign and her inexplicable resignation as Alaska governor. And the whole effort was under her control. It was up to Palin to decide what to write in her book and what messages to convey during her book tour and other public appearances. Yet though her book has sold well -- and earned her millions of dollars -- it was widely seen as a score-settling account aimed at critical McCain aides largely unknown to the general public.

The book made her look smaller, not bigger. It was not, uh, very presidential -- hardly a companion to John Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage." And her speech to the controversial Tea Party Nation convention last weekend made her seem like a money-grubber. She pocketed $115,000 for a political address that most pols give for free.

Palin said she would use the money to support conservative causes, but declined to specify how she would do so. (Would she donate the fee to her own political action committee, which would then buy more copies of her own book?) All in all, this hasn't been an impressive run for her.

Recently, I asked a friend of Palin's who are the people advising the ex-governor. This fellow shrugged and said, "Who knows?" He explained that Palin cooks up her own strategy. She has a few aides, but she doesn't reach out to consultants or advisers. "It's basically her and Todd," he remarked. "She does what she wants to do." He said this more in sorrow than admiration. "I don't see any plan," he added, shaking his head. (Months ago, an adviser to Mitt Romney told me, with unadulterated glee, that Palin had no senior or well-experienced political strategists providing her any advice.)

In her book, Palin complained that all those mean and petty McCain aides wouldn't let Sarah be Sarah. But in the past few months, she's been able to present herself exactly as she wants -- with her book, her regular Facebook utterances, her Fox News gig.

(On her Facebook page, she blasted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for referring to a strategy being considered by progressive groups a "retarded" idea, and then went easy on Rush Limbaugh after he called liberals "retards." ) There's been no filter. It's been Sarah Palin Unplugged. After all, she wrote those notes on her own hand for that Tea Party speech in which she derided President Obama for using a teleprompter. She cannot blame anyone else. And after all this exposure -- or overexposure -- the American public mostly appears unimpressed. That is, except for David Broder.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.
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