Monday, December 14, 2009

Sarah Palin's Book Tour De Force

- By Josh Painter

Sarah Palin's Going Rogue Book Tour has been a tour de force for the Republican Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee. Through the book tour and associated interviews, speeches and cameo appearances, The Arctic Fox has managed to change many perceptions about her, altering the stereotype that liberals and their media allies had generated.

The former governor began the process with the Oprah and Barbara Walters interviews. Both shows have audiences composed of mostly women, but not the conservative women who registered favorable opinions of Mrs. Palin in the opinion polls. No, these viewers are mostly Democrats and independents. Sarah Palin's mission here was not to win these women over completely, but just to demonstrate to them that she wasn't the ogre that many of them believed she was. Anti-Palin activists with the complicity of the media had dehumanized her, and all Sarah had to do was show these audiences that she was human. Mission accomplished: She left Winfrey and Walters effectively charmed, and she gave the former her highest ratings in years.

The next step in the promotional campaign for Going Rogue was the interview with Bill O'Reilly. BOR's audience also contains a significant number of independents and Democrats, but these people are much more politically oriented than the audiences who watch Winfrey and Walters. O'Reilly's questions were more substantial, and they demanded more substantial answers. Gov. Palin rose to the occasion. She acknowledged her mistakes with humility and defended her family with fierce passion. More importantly, her answers to O'Reilly's questions on foreign policy showed the host and his audience a Sarah Palin who some observers have remarked has a photographic memory and is a quick learner. There's no question that the former governor has been doing her homework on the issues of the day. Unlike the two earlier interviews in which Mrs. Palin proved that she was human, her performance in this one showed that she was a legitimate player on the political stage with a firm grasp of the issues.

For Sarah Palin, the book signing events themselves were more than just plays to her mostly conservative and libertarian base. At each stop, the local media reported the same story -- people by the thousands showing up for the events, hundreds of them arriving more than 24 hours early to get a choice spot in the queue, and many of them braving the cold, rain and snow to do it. There was little the Palin hit squads could do to tarnish her, and the pathetic attempts they made to do so only served to demonstrate how petty and mean-spirited her critics are. They tried to make something of the fact that Sarah Palin occasionally flew between tour stops instead of riding on the bus for every mile of the journey. This only showed the desperation of those who attack her. When they tried to characterize her as insensitive for not cancelling a signing event at Fort Hood a month after the shootings there, it was announced that she was donating her royalties from sales of her book at the Army base to the families of the victims. Cherry-picked videos of Palin supporters in line who didn't appear to be familiar with political issues only served to remind viewers of the clueless Obama voters in John Ziegler's documentary. When the Palin attack machine tried to reinforce their "quitter" meme by slamming her for not finishing a 5K run she participated in during the Thanksgiving break from the tour, photos of Palin pushing a double baby stroller at the event and news that she had helped the run's organizers raise a record amount of money for the charity the run benefitted made the charges look ridiculous. A stake was driven through the hearts of the attacks when polls showed that Sarah Palin's numbers were statistically as good or better than those of the president.

The two most significant events helping to alter how Sarah Palin is perceived were her speech to the Gridiron Dinner and a cameo appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. At the former, Palin critics such as liberal columnist Clarence Page expressed a newly found respect for her, and media outlets such as The Moderate Voice and The Christian Science Monitor, both of which which have a history of being tough on the former governor, had to admit that she charmed the audience of crusty media hands. Sarah Palin's cameo appearance with William Shatner on Conan O'Brien's show, says law professor William Jacobson, marked a turning point:
"The mainstream media, very begrudgingly and in small steps, is shifting its approach to Palin as polls show Palin's popularity rising... When it comes to Palin, the entertainment media is following not leading. We have reached the point where the mainstream entertainment media needs Palin more than Palin needs the media."
Going Rogue, the book tour and its associated events are just Phase Two in Sarah Palin's mission to erase the media/Leftist-created stereotype of her and to define herself on her own terms. Phase One was taking control of her message, which she did by effectively using Facebook to both lay out her policy positions and as a quick response vehicle to answer her critics. Phase Three will be fundraising and campaign efforts for conservative candidates across the country. One complaint some local news outlets expressed during the book tour was that the former governor did not sit for interviews with them while she was visiting their locales for signing events. Her schedule did not allow her the time to do these interviews, but it is likely that she will not be subject to such a tight schedule when campaigning for local candidates. We expect to see a local media blitz at nearly every stop she makes on these campaign swings. They begin next month in Texas, as Sarah Palin will be stumping for Gov. Rick Perry in his reelection bid against a well-financed and determined Kay Bailey Hutchison.

It only gets more interesting from here and more exciting for Sarah Palin's supporters. In this next phase, however, the perceptions she will be seeking to change lie not with local reporters, but rather mostly with Republican Party officials, from county chairmen all the way up to RNC committee members at the state and national levels. If Sarah Palin can win over these establishment types, she will have found the master key that unlocks those doors to a possible 2012 run for the White House that she has mentioned on more than just a few occasions.

- JP

Josh Painter is editor of Texas for Sarah Palin
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