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Sarah Palin dominates US campaign trail

Two people have dominated this US election, though neither of their names is on the ballot. One is President Barack Obama, the other is Sarah Palin.

The president will spend much of the last days before polling in a frantic dash around the country to defend his first two years in office and save imperilled Democrats.

The former governor of Alaska, who was on the losing ticket to Mr Obama in 2008, has already left her mark.

The unofficial queen of the Tea Party movement, Mrs Palin has pioneered a new breed of candidate in her image, the Mama Grizzlies – tough, assertive, fashion-conscious mothers with staunch conservative values.

Her success has only increased speculation that she will seek the Republican nomination in 2012, and the smart money is on her running.

Whether or not she would win is however still very open to question.

Mrs Palin is a rare political star but remains a highly divisive figure, with 22pc of the population holding a negative view of her in a recent CBS poll, while 75pc of Republicans view her favourably.

Some Republican candidates have not wanted to appear with her on the campaign trail because she drives away independent voters.

She appeared over the weekend in the safe territory of Florida, where there is a strong Tea Party presence.

But even the faithful there expressed doubts about her suitability as president – a finding that matched a straw poll at a recent Tea Party convention in which she came second on a list of possible 2012 candidates.

Her Florida speech included a shameless plug for her new "docu-series" on Alaska's wilderness that had some in the audience looking at their shoes in embarrassment. Though there were stirring moments, her thought process was disjointed and her delivery wayward at times. The applause was greater before she spoke than when she finished. Her talent in other words remains raw.

"I really love Sarah," said one woman. "But I would want to see who else is in the running before I make up mind." It was a typical response.