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Sarah Palin's marketing push flourishes amid presidential flirtation

John McCormick

Bloomberg News

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2010 2:20 p.m. MST

With three words, Sarah Palin placed her marker on presidential politics while calling attention to her second national book tour and her first reality television show.

"I believe so," the former Alaska governor said when asked whether she could defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.

Palin's declaration, delivered in an interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News scheduled for broadcast Dec. 9, coincides with a New York Times interview in which the Republican Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee said she is considering a White House bid.

She also criticized the Federal Reserve this month, first in a speech and again in a letter published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal in which she questioned plans for $600 billion in monetary stimulus — a move she termed a "dangerous experiment."

Palin's media blitz comes as she embarks on promotional trips for her book "America by Heart" and follows the launch of a reality show about her life in Alaska. The program's premiere on Nov. 14 drew the biggest audience — nearly 5 million viewers — for a debut on The Learning Channel cable network, owned by Discovery Communications Inc.

Her actions have intensified speculation over whether she is actively preparing to enter the presidential race or simply keeping her options open while raising her profile. Some political strategists say Palin's moves before and after the Nov. 2 midterm elections signal someone planning to run.

"She's either trying to gin up votes for Bristol or she is running for president," said Republican consultant John Feehery, referring to the so-far-successful run by Palin's 20-year-old daughter on the ABC television program "Dancing With the Stars."

Feehery, who advised onetime Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, also said that as Palin keeps voters guessing about her political aspirations, "the mystery helps her make money and keeps her in the news."

He said Palin, 46, had an "uneven election night," with some of the candidates she endorsed winning, such as Republican Nikki Haley in South Carolina's gubernatorial race, and others losing, including Joe Miller, the Republican Senate candidate she backed in her home state.

A Nov. 13-14 Gallup poll of Republicans and Republican- leaning independents found that 16 percent backed Palin to be the party's presidential candidate in 2012, tied for second with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The pair trailed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. He was supported by 19 percent in the survey, which had a margin of error of plus-or- minus 4 percentage points.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken Oct. 25-28 with a 3- percentage-point margin of error found that 67 percent of registered voters view Palin as unqualified to be president. Feehery said that as Palin mulls her future, such numbers should be a factor in her thinking.

"If she decides she wants to run for president, that's something she has to reverse," he said.

Others see Palin's hints about a presidential run as more about marketing than about a thirst for power.

"It's about the money," Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said Thursday of Palin's assertion that she could beat Obama.

As part of her book tour, Palin has a Nov. 27 stop in Iowa, the state where the presidential nominating contests start in February 2012. She was last in the state in September, when she gave the keynote address at the Iowa Republican Party's largest annual fundraiser.

Other potential Republican presidential candidates making regular visits to Iowa — both to gauge support and to start building the support network it traditionally takes to win the state's caucuses — include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Romney and Huckabee.

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