Palin's Profile

Todd Purdum has published a lengthy piece on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- "the sexiest and riskiest brand in the Republican Party" -- ...
by | July 1, 2009

Sarah Palin Todd Purdum has published a lengthy piece on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- "the sexiest and riskiest brand in the Republican Party" -- in Vanity Fair. The profile hits all the expected points -- the governor's apparent opportunism, Levi and Bristol, Wayne Andrew Ross, hesitant back-biting from former McCain campaign aides.

Update: Palin didn't talk to Purdum, but here's her interview with Runner's World.

The Vanity Fair piece has already triggered a food fight among prominent Republicans, including columnist Bill Kristol and former McCain adviser Steve Schmidt.

Palin watchers will want to read the whole thing but there are a couple of interesting nuggets to extract.

One is the extent to which Palin cared about how things would play back home in Alaska during last year's national campaign.

Another was the fairly consistent portrayal of someone who has a hard time maintaining close relationships with advisers -- not just during the presidential race, but throughout her political career in Alaska. The portrayal of her relying primarily if not exclusively on her husband Todd for advice is pretty convincing. "Testimony in the Troopergate investigation suggested that Todd was physically in the governor's office for about 50 percent of the time," Purdum writes.

There are also descriptions of Palin's detachment from various policy matters.

Representative Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat who often worked with Palin, told me that he had at first thought that some of Green's sharp criticism of Palin amounted to Republican infighting, or maybe just sour grapes that Wasilla had produced a new political figure whose star far outshone Green's. But he came to realize, he said, that Green had a better handle on Palin than he did. "She didn't work very hard. You would speak to her on particular issues, and it was like she didn't know anything about them and she never seemed very engaged." That said, "if your priorities happened to be her priorities, you could build a coalition."

Purdum plays with he question of whether her missteps since November hurt her chances for the GOP nomination in 2012, or whether she'd be able to build on her core social conservative support. He also suggests she's having more trouble at home.

A year ago, 80 percent of Alaskans viewed Palin very favorably or somewhat favorably; by this spring, just 55 percent had a positive opinion. All this has given rise to speculation in Alaska that Palin may not run for re-election next year. She does not have to declare her candidacy until June 2010. Most politicians of both parties in Alaska with whom I spoke assume she could win, though not as persuasively as she did in 2006, which would hardly help her standing in a 2012 presidential campaign. Though Palin's spokeswoman has said she does not intend to challenge Senator Lisa Murkowski, the former governor's daughter, who is also up for re-election next year, Palin has changed her mind without warning in the past, and becoming a senator would keep her in the national spotlight. Surveying the landscape of political and policy troubles in Alaska, Gregg Erickson, an independent economic consultant in Juneau, concludes, "Everything she's doing seems to be saying that there'll be a problem in the future owing to her inattention, but she won't be here to deal with it."

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