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Palin Cultivates Political Profile

Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate emerging as force within Republican Party and among conservative activists

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Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is emerging as a political force within the Republican Party and among grassroots conservative activists around the country.  Palin recently said she would consider a presidential bid in 2012.

Sarah Palin emerged from national obscurity in 2008 to become Republican presidential candidate John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

Palin made her share of political gaffes during the campaign, which became fodder for late-night comedians on television.

But Palin also endeared herself to social conservative activists, many of whom would like to see her run for president in 2012.

Palin was in the spotlight recently, addressing what was called the Tea Party convention - a loose coalition of anti-tax, conservative and libertarian activists meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

"This movement is about the people.  Who can argue [with] a movement that is about the people and for the people.  Remember, all political power is inherent in the people and government is supposed to be working for the people.  That is what this movement is about," Palin said.

The Tea Party movement, which takes its name from a significant American Revolutionary War event, played a significant role in drumming up grassroots opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform plan and in raising concerns about the country's growing budget deficit.

Palin has also embarked on a rigorous schedule of campaigning for Republican candidates for this year's midterm congressional elections in November.

Palin recently campaigned in Texas, where Republican Governor Rick Perry faces a primary challenge from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Next month, the former Alaska governor heads to Arizona to campaign for her former running mate, Senator John McCain, who faces a challenge in the Republican primary from former Representative J.D. Hayworth.

A recent public opinion survey put Palin at the top of the list of Republican presidential hopefuls for the 2012 election.  She was asked on the "Fox News Sunday" television program whether she would consider running two years from now.

"I would. I would, if I believed that that is the right thing to do for our country and for the Palin family.  Certainly, I would do so," she said.

Palin is popular among grassroots conservatives around the country, especially those with conservative views on social issues, such as abortion.  But many voters continue to question Palin's intelligence and her grasp of issues - concerns that first arose during her sometimes faltering performance in television interviews during the 2008 campaign.

Despite the doubts, many Republican strategists see Palin as a political force to be reckoned with this year, and she is in demand as a campaigner by Republican candidates around the country.

Former Republican national chairman Ed Gillespie spoke on NBC television's Meet the Press program.

"And she has an incredible capacity to connect with people and their concerns.  And I find myself baffled by some of the consternation about Sarah Palin sometimes because I find her to be a pretty compelling figure and someone obviously who resonated very strongly in that room in Nashville [at the Tea Party convention]," Gillespie said.

Polls show that Democrats and a sizable number of independents have a generally negative view of Palin.  Palin critics also noted that she had scribbled notes on her hand prior to her speech at the Tea Party convention about broad themes like tax cuts and energy.  Cameras captured her appearing to look down at the notes during a question and answer session.

Some Republicans have also expressed reservations about Palin and the possibility that she might seek the party's presidential nomination in 2012.

David Frum is a conservative political commentator who was a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.  He says he was not impressed with Palin's best-selling autobiography entitled Going Rogue.

"When you read a book, you are in direct contact with the mind of another human being, without the distraction of their physical presence, of their image, of their tics [i.e., personality traits].  It is mind to mind communication.  When you are in mind to mind to communication with Sarah Palin, it is not that interesting.  There is not much there," Frum said.

For now, Palin is splitting time between appearing as a commentator for the Fox News Channel, giving paid speeches and campaigning for Republican candidates.

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