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Palin's success raises tempers, boosts ratings

By Jocelyn Noveck

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 18 2010 4:40 p.m. MST

NEW YORK — Conservative blogger Kevin DuJan is psyched. He's actually starting to think Palin can win the whole kit and kaboodle.

No, not Sarah — though he hopes she'll be the next president. He means daughter Bristol, on "Dancing with the Stars."

The 20-year-old Palin's improbable run to next week's finals — championed by websites like DuJan's Hillbuzz.org — has led to such an uproar that conspiracy theories are floating, some fans are insisting they'll never watch again, and a Wisconsin man actually shot up his television, apparently in disgust over Palin's dancing.

"There's been more angst over this than over the 2000 election," quips media industry analyst Shari Anne Brill, only slightly kidding.

The real winner? ABC, of course. The always-popular "Dancing with the Stars" is enjoying a ratings boost, undoubtedly due to the novel casting.

For those whose television tastes tend toward shows less awash in sequins, mirrors, feathers and fishnets, a brief recap: Many were surprised when the shy Bristol, once the country's best-known teen mom, became a contestant on the hit show, where judges' scores are combined with public votes to determine the winners.

But no matter: Bristol, paired with professional partner Mark Ballas, put on her game face and started, well, learning to dance. Her effort was clear; so was her lack of skill and experience.

Flash forward to this week's results show, with the four remaining couples vying for three spots in the finals. First "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey was declared safe, then Disney Channel's Kyle Massey.

It came down to Palin and singer Brandy, who had wowed the judges with her sultry tango, earning a perfect score. When Palin was declared safe, Brandy was speechless, and the jaw of Grey's partner, Derek Hough, quite literally dropped.

The next morning, "Dancing" fan Kimberly Fishman arrived at her job at a northern California bank. She was furious at the result, and so were co-workers. "People were saying it's the tea party voting, that all of Alaska voted," says Fishman, 42. "It's all politics."

Fishman, who identifies herself as a liberal, has resolved not to watch next week. "I'm done," she says. "No one could say Bristol is the better dancer." And yet, she adds, she herself didn't vote.

That's a key point, media analyst Brill says. "A lot of people out there are watching but not voting."

So who does vote? Obviously, people who really, really care. Like DuJan, the conservative activist. A former Democrat, he turned into a major Sarah Palin fan after Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the Democratic nomination in 2008.

"Are you planning on hosting a Team Bristol Monday Night Dancing Watch party?" reads a post on his website. "You ... can actually vote together and send Bristol over the top ... while sending Leftist heads into meltdown."

In an interview, DuJan said the public support for Palin was a sign of real affection and a desire to reward her after her ordeal under the harsh media spotlight — both as an unmarried pregnant teen, and now with the snide comments about her dancing.

"Think of all the things they've said about Bristol," he said. "This would never be allowed to happen to Chelsea Clinton, or the Gore daughters, or God forbid the Obama daughters. Support for her is real."

And besides, "I think she's a marvelous dancer. She's the only one whose performances have improved every single week."

DuJan defends a tactic that has gotten some critics angry: The use of fake e-mail addresses and multiple phone numbers to let people exceed their vote limit.

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