Republicans in shock as wins put Palin on path to Washington
'Mama Grizzly' a big draw at fundraiser
IT's been a good week for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin -- so good, in fact, that the smart money is now on a run at the presidential nomination for the Republicans.
The 'Mama Grizzly', as she has become affectionately known among supporters, has helped propel upstart Republican contenders to victory in recent primaries.
Her cable TV show makes its debut in November, and now she's making a highly significant and symbolic trip to to Iowa, the state that has made and broken its share of presidential campaigns.
The 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate was a big draw at last night's Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, the Iowa Republican Party's biggest fundraiser.
The one question on everyone's mind is whether she'll run for president in 2012.
Fresh off those two big wins, Ms Palin this week called for the Republican 'political machine' to put aside differences within the party and home in on Democrats, whom she said had a "weakened leftist party".
Ms Palin, whose Twitter and Facebook pages are required reading in political circles, also took some jabs at the media for all the interest in her wardrobe and gestures rather than her record.
But Iowa, home to the nation's lead-off presidential caucuses, can be tough terrain for celebrity candidates. Those who try to ride their fame to victory in Iowa without organising a grassroots campaign often find themselves out in the cold.
Take John Glenn. The former astronaut and senator drew huge crowds and intense attention here when he sought the Democratic nomination in 1984 -- but he got just 4pc of the vote.
If she runs, Ms Palin would start with strong appeal among the social and religious conservatives who play a crucial role in Iowa's Republican politics. But it is said that appeal wouldn't necessarily last if not backed up by a strong effort to reach out to caucus voters.
"The track to success in Iowa is slogging around all the small towns in bad weather and sleeping in downscale motels because that's the best in town," said Rich Galen, a Republican strategist based in Washington.
"That certainly doesn't seem to fit the Palin theory of how she should conduct her life."
A Palin candidacy also would test Iowa's glass ceiling. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who came in third in the 2008 caucuses, how tough the state can be for a woman. Iowa is one of two states -- Mississippi is the other -- that's never sent a woman to congress or elected a woman governor.
To date Ms Palin has been coy about her presidential intentions and masterful at keeping her name in the news since she abruptly resigned as Alaska's governor in 2009. She has mixed political fundraisers and candidates' campaign events with speeches in which she commands fees as high as $100,000 (€76,500).
Her memoir, 'Going Rogue', was a bestseller. Her new book, 'America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag', will be published in December.
Her favourable ratings have been slipping all year, in recent weeks dropping below 40pc for the first time, in the latest Associated Press-Gfk poll. Some 40pc now have a very unfavourable rating of Ms Palin. But among Republicans, about two-thirds give her positive marks and one-third view her very favourably.
"According to the media," she said, "I was plucked from obscurity while staring at Russia from my house."
Not that Ms Palin is averse to using the media for her own purposes. Coming up in November on cable TV's TLC is 'Sarah Palin's Alaska'. It is described as "a really non-political show, a show about Alaskan adventure".
A non-political show that, no doubt, will only boost Ms Palin's political visibility.