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Sarah Palin Still Thinking About 2010

Everyone should be unsuccessful so successfully: From a losing vice presidential candidacy, Sarah Palin has bounced back as a best-selling author with plans to be a major player in next year's elections.

"It has been spectacular," Palin told USA TODAY in a telephone interview yesterday as she wrapped up a three-week book tour that has made her memoirs, Going Rogue, one of the top-selling non-fiction debuts ever.

Palin heads home this weekend for Christmas in Alaska, but she won't be there long.

"I'll be doing some speeches across the country in these coming months," Palin said. "I'll be taking people up on their offers to assist them in campaigns."

But even as her book sales soar, Palin remains a divisive figure in American politics. In an October Gallup Poll, 50% of those surveyed viewed the conservative Republican unfavorably, compared to 40% who had a favorable view.

In the interview, Palin praised President Obama for the speech he gave Thursday to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. She said the president's defense of war to combat evil could have been taken from the pages of her memoirs.

"Wow, that really sounded familiar," said Palin, a frequent Obama critic. "I talked, too, in my book about the fallen nature of man and why war is necessary at times."

She did criticize the president for his efforts to make a deal on climate change at the global summit now underway in Copenhagen. Though she has seen "glaciers receding" and other "impacts of climate change" in the nation's only Arctic state, the former Alaska governor said "that doesn't mean that it's man's activities - that it's drilling for oil or driving an SUV - that has caused these cyclical weather pattern changes that for eons the Earth has witnessed."

Does she plan to take on Obama in 2012?

"My thinking is still 2010 and helping candidates get elected there," Palin said. "That's what I'm concentrating on."

If she isn't quite ready to run for the presidency, Palin also is doing nothing to discourage the idea. Her book tour has been a "confirming and affirming" experience, she said, adding that she's tapped the same vein of discontent in the country's body politic as the conservative "Tea Party" movement, which she called "beautiful."

"The great thing about what's going on right now across the country is there isn't the apathy that perhaps we had seen even a year ago," Palin said. "All these people who are getting riled up. It's a healthy riled up, too. This is good for democracy. It's people getting sick and tired of feeling disenfranchised and disenchanted with their government, and they want their voice heard."

The political action committee Palin formed this year, SarahPAC, won't file its next public accounting until January. Palin aide Jason Recher reports "a significant uptick" in fundraising since the book tour began Nov. 18.

In next year's congressional and gubernatorial races, Palin said she'll be helping to fund candidates who share her "economically conservative principles" and "commitment to win the war against terrorists." Ideology, she said, is more important than party labels.

Earlier this year, Palin made a much-publicized intervention in a New York congressional race, backing a Conservative Party candidate over the GOP nominee. A Democrat ended up winning the seat that had been held for more than a century by Republicans.

Things haven't been smooth for Palin in Alaska, either. Fellow Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, the state's senior senator, blasted Palin last summer when Palin abruptly resigned her position as Alaska's first female governor with 18 months left in her four-year term. Murkowski expressed disappointment that Palin "decided to abandon the state and her constituents."

Palin has no regrets. "God has blessed the decision I made," she said.

'Playing to one side'

Whether Palin can translate her book's success into votes is an open question.

"She's playing to one side of the stadium," Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, whose new book You've Come A Long Way Maybe discusses the role of female political groundbreakers.

While Palin is "incredibly popular among conservatives, especially conservative women, the biggest challenge she faces is that she's been identified as someone who did not have the intellectual heft to be commander in chief," Sanchez said. "I don't know that she's addressed that yet."

The book tour underscored that Palin is as polarizing as she is popular. One sure sign: The tour is making money for her critics as well. Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, one of several spoof volumes rushed into print to compete with Palin's book, ranks No. 12 on Amazon's list of biography best sellers.

Even so, those who disagree with Palin see her as a force to be reckoned with. An op-ed piece Palin wrote this week for The Washington Post about climate change drew fire from former vice president Al Gore. He accused Palin of being one of the "deniers . . . persisting in an era of unreality."

Those who admire Palin do so intensely. Since hitting the stands Nov. 17, Going Rogue has spent three weeks at No. 1 on USA TODAY's best-seller list,, matching the record for political memoirs, set by retired general Colin Powell in 1995. Publisher HarperCollins says it has gone back to the presses 13 times to keep up with demand and now has 2.8 million copies of Palin's book in print. Thousands of fans have camped out overnight, sometimes in bitter cold temperatures, for a chance to shake her hand.

At a time when the financial squeeze in the publishing industry has made book tours a relative rarity, HarperCollins pulled out all the stops for Palin.

By this weekend, when she officially wraps up her tour with two stops in Alaska, the politician-turned author will have visited 33 cities in 25 states - mostly in areas where her presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., did well last year, or where she drew big crowds at campaign rallies.

"We knew that Gov. Palin has an incredible fan base," said HarperCollins publicist Tina Andreadis. "By orchestrating a big tour," she said, "we were confident we could gain major sales and publicity at every event - which we did."

Palin was a political pragmatist when it came to promoting her book. She gave her first interview to daytime talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, a supporter of Obama's presidential campaign. And Palin hired lawyer Robert Barnett, whose author-clients include such big-name Democrats as Obama, former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Palin gave no interviews to local newspapers or television stations along the way, but it didn't seem to matter. At a Hastings bookstore in Richland, Wash., where manager Justin Cardenas has just 72 hours to prepare for a book-signing that Palin decided to do while spending Thanksgiving weekend with family members nearby, all it took was putting a notice on the store marquee.

"Within an hour, I was getting calls," Cardenas said. People began to line up at 10 a.m. Saturday for a book signing that began at noon the next day.

"It was a very cold weekend," the store manager said. "Some even had space heaters that ran on propane."

A 'contemporary phenomena'

The book tour is "a very interesting contemporary phenomena" and one that's especially suited to appeal to some of Palin's most loyal fans, said literary critic Elaine Showalter, author of Jury of Her Peers, an anthology of American women writers.

"Women are the majority of book buyers. They're very comfortable in bookstores," Showalter said. "They're cozy. They're usually in malls. They have plenty of restrooms."

Palin said she noticed the disproportionate number of women at her signings.

"I loved it," she said, recounting her relish as meeting "so many women who are in or who have been in my shoes." She said many were mothers or grandmothers of special-needs children, such as Palin's youngest son, Trig, born with Down syndrome. "We connect," Palin said. "We understand each other."

Palin, who will have made stops at five military facilities by the time her tour ends in Alaska this weekend, announced Thursday that she's donating the red jacket she wore on the book cover for conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham to auction for a wounded warriors benefit.

Asked the size of the jacket, the diminutive Palin was coy. "It's small but it's roomy," she laughed. "A guy would look great in it, too."

Her fans are "hard-working, unpretentious, patriotic," said Palin, who sought them out by taking her tour bus to places book tours don't often venture - a Costco in Reno and a Sam's Club in Washington, Pa. As a result, Palin's books are hitting big sales numbers in places where political memoirs are not generally hot numbers.

For now, Palin plans to cook up a traditional Christmas dinner for family and friends. "Oh, you know, we always do the moose chili," she said.

Palin said she wants to help her husband, Todd, a four-time Iron Dog snowmobile race champion, prepare for the 1,900-mile competition in February.

And Palin, who talked in the book about insisting on time for a daily run during last year's campaign, said she's got an athletic quest of her own in mind. She said she "can't wait to get more miles under my belt, 'cause I do want to run another marathon."

Her supporters hope she does, too - one that ends in 2012.

1 Responses »

  1. Sarahs' strength is in her combination of intelligence and the fact that you feel as if you could live next door to her happily. From her successful leadership of the state of Alaska to one child licking her fingers to smooth down some stubborn hair on her baby brothers head: this family respresents the trials and the goodness of Americas' heartland. This family is what the Clintons pretended to be.