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Year End

2010: The Year Sarah Palin Became Queen of All Media

Dec 30, 2010 – 1:00 PM
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David Knowles

David Knowles Writer

Move on over, Oprah. There's a new media queen in town.

In a feat that may have seemed impossible at the conclusion of 2009, Sarah Palin became an even more visible national personality in 2010.

After she and Republican presidential nominee John McCain lost the 2008 election by some 8 million votes to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, it may have seemed that Palin would simply fade out of the national spotlight and return to Alaska politics.

And when Palin abruptly announced in July 2009 that she was quitting her job as Alaska's governor, little more than two years after being elected, many pundits wrote off her chances of ever returning to politics in any serious capacity.

But after the release of "Going Rogue," her best-selling book, in November 2009, it became clear that Palin had no intention of trading the limelight for the northern lights.

Not until this year, however, did the full extent of Palin's high-profile plans come into focus. Proving that she remains a potent political force, Palin and her handlers mounted a strategy that kept the presumed presidential candidate's name popping up in headlines on what felt like a daily basis.

Surge Desk takes a look back at 10 factors in 2010 that accounted for Palin's spotlight shining brighter than ever before.

1. The midterm elections
With the recession raging throughout much of 2009, a perfect political storm saw President Barack Obama's approval ratings plummet in the months following his election. Through a series of highly publicized endorsements, Palin, now freed from the demands of running the state of Alaska, took the opportunity to hit the campaign trail once again. Buoyed by an association with the nascent tea party movement, Palin blasted all things Obama and wound up with a fairly impressive win-loss record for the candidates to whom she'd tossed her support. Still, there were notable losses, too, such as Nevada's Sharron Angle, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, and Alaska's Joe Miller.

2. A daughter on "Dancing With the Stars"
Beating her mother to the reality-television punch, Bristol Palin signed up for a stint on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and very nearly came away the winner. Whether Bristol's dance moves or her mother's popularity among the show's conservative demographic was the reason for her long tenure on the show became a point of debate. But the fact that a Palin kept coming back week after week meant a landslide of free publicity that any prospective presidential candidate would be glad to receive.

3. A new best-selling book
"America by Heart," Sarah Palin's follow-up to "Going Rogue," was released in November. Of course, with books come book tours, and Palin's choice of stops -- notably Iowa and South Carolina -- may have tipped the author's hand regarding a future run for the White House. In the pages of her new memoir, Palin lashed out at Levi Johnston and even managed to poke fun at what she termed as the "talent-deprived" contestants on "American Idol." For the first few weeks since its release, the book has remained near the top of the New York Times best-seller list.

4. Mastery of Twitter and Facebook
As 2009 came to a close, Palin announced on Facebook that she was returning to Twitter under the handle @SarahPalinUSA, but it wasn't until 2010 that she really hit her stride on both the microblogging site and its larger social networking cousin. Like many politicians of late, what Palin realized was that the messages she posted for her 2.5 million Facebook friends and 335,000 Twitter followers instantly became news. Moreover, the two sites provide her with a way to broadcast her message without having to answer follow-up questions from pesky reporters like Katie Couric.

5. 'Refudiate' named word of the year
You know things are going your way when a gaffe on Twitter goes on to become the Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year. Smashing together "refute" and "repudiate," Palin coined the new word in her now-famous July tweet in which she pleaded with Muslims to stand against Park51, the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. The message read: "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."

After a wave of mockery ensued over the new word, Palin removed the tweet from her Twitter feed and added a corrected version.

Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too realless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Later, with debate raging about whether "refudiate" should be considered a legitimate word, Palin compared herself to another famous author: William Shakespeare.

"Refudiate," "misunderestimate," "wee-wee'd up." English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!less than a minute ago via web

6. Even her feuds made headlines
The old adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity" might well have been written with Sarah Palin in mind. In 2010, she perfected the art of turning criticism made about her back on the people who delivered it, creating even more headlines and making sure to get in the last word in any sudden feud. Dust-ups with Karl Rove and Barbara Bush showed that Palin, in true mama grizzly fashion, is at her fiercest when being attacked. Moreover, the criticism from Republican establishment figures gave Palin further ammunition to portray herself as a Washington outsider.

7. "Sarah Palin's Alaska"
With Palin installed as a paid political commentator at Fox News, television viewers were offered a softer side of the former governor on TLC's reality program "Sarah Palin's Alaska." While the show's ratings have been up and down and reviews have been less than charitable, Palin used the platform to reach an even larger audience and to try to improve her standing among female voters by featuring her alongside her family.

8. Computer hacker sentenced
On Nov. 12, David Kernell, a former University of Tennessee student, was sentenced to one year behind bars for figuring out the password to Palin's e-mail account using publicly available information. Palin and her husband, Todd, both testified at the trial, and the guilty verdict as well as the sentencing came as vindication for the couple.

9. Haiti trip
Often mocked for her seeming lack of experience in foreign policy matters (see: North Korea), Palin set off on a tour of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where an ongoing cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people. Citizen Palin eschewed every media organization's request to ride along on her journey, except, of course, for Fox News. With Greta van Susteren shadowing her every move, Palin beamed back a picture of herself as a compassionate, engaged human being, even though some in the media criticized the outing as a publicity stunt.

10. Still one of the "Most Fascinating People"
Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin is fascinating. For confirmation, one only needs to consult Barbara Walters, who kept Palin on her list of the 10 Most Fascinating People for the third year running (now that's fascinating). In her interview with Palin, Walters asked the increasingly inevitable question: Is Palin planning a run for the White House in 2012?

"I will run for the president if I believe I have the best shot to win the race," Palin replied.

That's something of a deviation from a response the former governor gave earlier in the year to the same question, when she said she would consider running if there's "nobody else to do it."

The obvious downside to the amount of prolonged attention that Palin garnered in 2010 is that, inevitably, some people may feel they've seen enough. While Palin started off the year as the presumptive front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee for 2012, most recent polls show her lagging behind Mitt Romney and being positively crushed by President Obama in a head-to-head match-up.

In a way, whether Palin actually ends up launching a bid to oust Barack Obama and become the next president of the United States is beside the point. If we learned nothing else in 2010, it's that she is here to stay.

Follow Surge Desk on Twitter.
Filed under: Nation, Politics, Tea Party, Year End