Local view: Palin must have a plan to cash in politically on her popularity

Type "Blessed Virgin Mary" into Google and you get nearly 5 million hits. That's 5 million references online for the figure Christians know as the Mother of God.

Type "Blessed Virgin Mary" into Google and you get nearly 5 million hits. That's 5 million references online for the figure Christians know as the Mother of God.

And what if you type "Mitt Romney?" He edges out the Blessed Mother with 6 million. It's no disrespect; it's just that Romney is the top Republican candidate for the next presidential election.

What happens when you type "Sarah Palin" into the search box? Well, it takes several nanoseconds longer for the results to appear because Google must tally 48 million hits! That's right: The former governor of Alaska who left office to recite commentary for Fox News is 10 times more famous than both the Mother of God and the No. 1 presidential contender. Granted, Palin's official deletion of herself from the race had a lot to do with ramping up her present publicity. But you can bet a set of moose antlers that Tim Pawlenty didn't surpass even 10 million hits the day he bowed out.

Even folks who would abide Palin as president still are crazy for her.

This I learned through a very unscientific poll conducted over the past three years, during which I've published about 100 columns. Depending on the particular topic, I received 10 to 15


e-mail responses apiece. Occasionally I'd get a call or, rarely, a letter; but the overall average has been a dozen contacts per column.

The first time I wrote about Sarah Palin, however, which was shortly after the 2008 Republican National Convention, I was bombarded with more than 200

e-mails. Why? Well, she is attractive, and she is a "maverick," to use one of her favorite terms. And she's the anti-politician, the Republican Virgin Mary, if you will, harnessing the nation's discontent with its elected officials. And did I already mention attractive?

At the risk of belaboring this point, go to any Duluth-Superior lounge around 5:30 p.m. when the news comes on the TV. People are mostly oblivious, drinking, talking in clusters, just off from work. But if there is footage of Palin, watch what happens: They look up. People want to see her. Some may scoff, laugh and murmur to their companions. But all want to see. And when that's followed by a story about Mitt Romney or a report of a crossing guard's miraculous vision of the Blessed Virgin, everybody reabsorbs into their private conversations.

Certainly there are exceedingly more beautiful people -- models, actresses, celebrities -- sashaying across the screen on Entertainment Tonight. But Palin is a real person, trying to be a heavyweight politician, while looking like a model. Which makes her, I now realize, the central casting archetype for reality TV.

That explains the people who love Sarah Palin.

But what explains Sarah Palin herself? What exactly is her agenda if she's not running for president? Why is she working so hard to keep a high profile on TV and in bookstores and with quasi-campaign appearances in states with upcoming primaries?

Sarah Palin must have a pragmatic endgame.


In fact, I would not be surprised if she were posturing for a political appointment worthy of her 48 million Googlizations. A cabinet post. An ambassadorship. Head of a blue-ribbon commission.

Abandoning the presidential contest, Palin showed she's not as dumb as some folks think, apparently perceiving from all the polls that despite turning heads in Duluth saloons few would vote for her for president. And she already lost once for vice president.

When you can't win a coveted national office, what good are a ton of fringe loyalty and 48 million hits? Perhaps you can turn them into cash, which she has been doing at Fox and on the lecture circuit and on

Or you can turn it into a prestigious national appointment by watching and waiting (not quietly) and then directing your rabid supporters to vote for the likely victor.

I'm thinking the former self-proclaimed battler of Alaskan oil companies might fancy being energy secretary. If you want to keep your moose antlers, don't bet against it.

David McGrath of Hayward is an emeritus professor of the College of DuPage in Illinois who writes frequently on politics and education. Contact him at Profmcgrath .

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