“Rock Climber or Rock Star?” It’s Only ’10, but Brand Palin Picks Up Steam

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Regardless of whether you rave about or revile her politics — and there seems to be little sentiment in between — it’s hard to argue that Sarah Palin is doing much wrong these days in promoting herself for future glory, whatever that might be.

Indeed, the debut of Sarah Palin’s Alaska last night on America’s TLC channel — the most-watched debut in the cable network’s history, with 5 million viewers — was only the latest manifestation of her surprisingly prolific personal brand.[more]

“Refudiate,” Palin’s portmanteau mash-up of “repudiate” and “refute,” was just named 2010 word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

And, more seriously, there’s also the fact that a solid majority of Palin’s political endorsees won their elections around the country on November 2, though some of the highest-profile Tea Party candidates lost despite her imprimatur.

And you certainly can read as a second-hand endorsement of Palin the fact that her daughter, Bristol Palin, remains one of the last four contestants on this season’s Dancing With the Stars on ABC — despite her obvious lack of dance chops.

One after another, scores of better-known and better-dancing celebrities have fallen by the wayside, including retired superstar NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and actress Audrina Patridge. But “teen activist” Bristol Palin has danced on and on, into the show’s vaunted semifinals this week.

Mama Palin has been a frequent presence on Dancing as well, in the audience and even in taped rehearsal segments. So what fan base is substantial enough to keep voting “Bristol the Pistol” back  week after week — hers, or her mother’s?

Not surprisingly, some critics already are scoring the eight-week TLC reality show as little more than one long presidential campaign commercial. Palin has promoted it as a fun, revealing and family-friendly look at Alaska.

It may, of course, be both. But as with just about everything else concerning Sarah Palin, where you stand on this question probably depends on where you stand on her.

“What all this suggests is that she’s crafting her lifestyle and her biography as typifying a person who’s independent, rugged, resilient, in touch with nature and has learned life lessons that she can bring into governance if she moves back into governance,” commented Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who studies political rhetoric, to the UK’s Daily Mail.

Palin remains a polarizing national figure, to be sure. As CNN notes, “A recent Gallup poll found 52% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the former governor. Another poll conducted by AP-GfK found 49% of Americans view Palin unfavorably. But among Republicans, it’s a dramatically different story. That same AP-GfK poll discovered 79% of GOP voters like Palin.”

Her eight-week TV series wraps up on TLC in mid-January, “just as many potential Republican presidential candidates will be deciding whether to take the White House plunge,” CNN adds. “The first GOP presidential debate, hosted by NBC News and Politico, is scheduled for next spring.”

Let the 2012 campaign begin!

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