Over the past few days, Sarah Palin has rolled out a new phase of her political strategy -- a full-blown use of all media platforms to keep herself in the public eye.
With the debut of her eight-part family series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which drew a record-high nearly 5 million
viewers to The Learning Channel on Sunday (against Sunday night football and the CBS and ABC hits "Undercover Boss" and "Desperate Housewives''), Palin can chalk up another media victory.
But it is a mega-profile in the New York Times Magazine, released online Wednesday in advance of publication in print this weekend, that brings her to the cusp of media saturation -- and recognition. In a cover story titled "The Palin Network,''
writer Robert Draper sums up Palin's stature today: "Having crawled from the wreckage of the 2008 presidential campaign and her much-derided resignation as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin had emerged as arguably the most captivating and influential Republican in America -- and therefore a viable contender for the presidential nomination in 2012."
Asked if she is considering a run for president, Palin told The Times, "I am. I'm engaged in the internal deliberations candidly, and having that discussion with my family, because my family is the most important consideration here." She's been toying with this answer for a while now, but this was perhaps her most direct response.
The Times article, one of the few times she has agreed to let a mainstream media reporter look closely at her and her guerrilla organization
, is a big addition to her lengthening list of command performances across multiple media platforms, such as the social networks Twitter and Facebook, cable TV (Fox News and TLC), and an upcoming nationwide book tour (for a new book, "America by Heart") -- all of this from a woman described by critics as ignorant and brash and praised by supporters as authentic and bold.
Related: Sarah Palin: I Can Beat Obama
Palin's media strategy seems different from anyone else's on the national political stage. To an unusual degree among politicians, she has manipulated the media to get her message across without the need to go through many of the usual gatekeepers of mainstream journalism and paid advertising.
No question, Palin is a media phenomenon. In this election year, she gained more free air time than any other politician. In many ways, she controls the media
and the message.
And Palin does so with the greatest of ease because she seems comfortable even when others might wince. Alessandra Stanley, the New York Times chief TV critic, put it this way in her review of "Sarah Palin's Alaska":
Ms. Palin is no ordinary politician.
It's still not clear whether she plans to run for president in 2012, or is just riding high on her popularity and fame. The TLC program highlights her physical bravery, but the series' existence points to a different kind of courage: Ms. Palin is not afraid to be herself.
One of Palin's most acerbic critics, former Salon editor Joan Walsh, was surprisingly kind about the reality show on MSNBC's "Hardball" on Monday. After acknowledging that viewers would appreciate Alaska's beauty and the outdoorsy Palin family, Walsh said the program was a bit of a screwball comedy, like the 1950s hit "I Love Lucy."
Palin, who gets $250,000 per episode for the TLC show, doesn't need the network evening news or NPR or "60 Minutes" to make her case. Usually, she addresses voters directly, without intermediary static. She follows her instincts, good and bad. She endorsed underdog upstart candidates, well over half of whom came out winners on Nov. 2, though she gets the blame for clunkers like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska.
Palin's media strategy seems impromptu at times, unrehearsed and unscripted, and it is nearly always a family affair. Her daughter Bristol, 20, a much-criticized unmarried teenage mother, is now is a surprise finalist on "Dancing with the Stars." With her mother cheering from the front row, it's clear that Bristol owes her success -- she won a spot in next week's finale -- to the votes of her mother's admirers. There's been much chatter about the tea party vote for Bristol
, but bloc voting is nothing new on DWTS.
"Think of all the people out there who hate my mom," Bristol told E! News on Monday evening. "Why don't we talk about that? It can work both ways with me being Sarah Palin's daughter."
She's right. Politics runs through everything her mother does. Next in line is Palin's tour
for "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag." It's a good bet that her tour, which pointedly skips blue states, will be a resounding success, as was her first one, for "Going Rogue.'' From the wilds of Alaska to the front row of DWTS to upcoming book signings and photo ops, Sarah Palin seems to be everywhere because she is.
And after the attacks she received since her vice presidential nomination two years ago, Palin seems to have emerged smarter and perhaps better prepared.
"Few are underestimating Sarah Palin anymore," said the Times Magazine piece. "The prevailing narrative of Palin in 2009 was that she was an incompetent ditz. This year's story line is that she is a social-media visionary who purposefully circumnavigated the power-alley gasbags and thereby constructed a new campaigning template for the ages. The reality is that Palin's direction is determined by her instincts."
The political columnist John Heilemann wrote in New York magazine: "There is a growing consensus that Palin is running
or setting herself up to run." Citing professional Republicans, Heilemann, co-author of "Game Change," wrote, "All agreed that her entry would radically and fundamentally transform the race. More averred that if she steps into the fray, she stands a reasonable chance of claiming the Republican prize. Indeed, more than one argued that she is already the de facto front-runner.''
And to top off her latest run, Palin scored another victory this week: a word she made up, "refudiate," for which she took a lot of ridicule months back, was designated the "word of the year"
by the New Oxford American Dictionary.