Reading Sarah Palin: Will She Run For President?

Sarah Palin's Going Rogue: An American Life made the best-seller list before it was even released, further stoking her meteoric political celebrity. But does the campaign memoir presage a run for the White House or an entirely different path?

Never before has a former vice presidential candidate — a losing one at that — generated this kind of attention. A coveted spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show and plenty of attention from the rest of the media kicked off the book at its release earlier this week.

More than a year after she and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) lost their White House bid, Palin remains controversial, charismatic, polarizing and fascinating.

Although it is clear she has a good shot at a future on the talk show circuit, Palin is coy about whether she'll run for president. On Oprah, she said she wasn't retreating, just reloading.

"Does that mean you're reloading for 2012?" Winfrey asked.

Palin replied that she was "concentrating on 2010, and making sure that we have issues tackled as Americans to make sure that we're on the right road."

"Would you even tell me if you were thinking about it?" Winfrey said.

"No, I wouldn't," Palin replied, laughing.

The former Alaska governor also told ABC's Barbara Walters that the presidency "certainly isn't on my radar screen right now."

In the meantime, Palin is a hero to the GOP's "Tea Party" base — that portion of the party that is passionately and vociferously opposed to President Obama's policies.

"She will play a tremendous role in the activist and the conservative movement," says conservative blogger Ed Morrissey.

It's a constituency that views Palin "as someone very much like" them, he says. "Not somebody from the elite, not somebody from academia, but somebody who's a conservative mom — coming out of that same mold."

And if she does decide to run, she's got a big leg up on the competition, says former McCain strategist John Weaver. Compared with a lot of others thinking of running, Palin has "100 percent name ID," he says.

But that name recognition is a mixed blessing, because so much of the public views her negatively. According to an ABC-Washington Post poll, 60 percent of Americans think she's not qualified to be president. More than 50 percent say they would never vote for her.

Inside the Republican primary electorate, particularly in caucus states such as Iowa, her support is much stronger. Despite the grass-roots Republican enthusiasm for Palin, however, it's difficult to find a GOP strategist who thinks she will run.

"She's got a very loyal and large base of voters around the country that listen to what she says, that she can harness for various causes," says Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota. "But in terms of setting herself up to actually run for president and be the leader of the Republican Party, I don't think she's really doing that."

Weaver, whose work for the McCain campaign ended before Palin was tapped as the Arizona Republican's running mate, says he doesn't see any sign that she is laying the groundwork for a White House bid.

"Had she really wanted [to] become president or play in the [Republican] Party in the long-term, she would've set about repairing the image that came about from the 2008 campaign," he says.

That would have entailed becoming "fully informed about national security and foreign policy issues as well as economic issues," Weaver says.

"There's no evidence that she pursued that path, whatsoever," he says.

But Palin has time — about two years — to figure it out.

Meanwhile, Morrissey thinks she is right to focus on electing Republicans in 2010. Endorsing candidates, raising money and energizing the party base will give Palin a big platform and a way to showcase her clout inside the GOP.

"What will be telling for Sarah Palin is what kind of impact she's going to have on the midterm elections — where she's helpful, where she's not helpful," he says.

"I think that will give us all a much better idea of where Sarah Palin can go in 2012 or in 2016 or in 2020," Morrissey says.

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