Has Sarah Palin jumped the shark? Experts say no.
POSTED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 5:24pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 10:47am
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Sportsman Channel's promo for Sarah Palin's new reality television venture features the gun-toting politico-turned-celebrity exploring her idea of American freedom: man caves, target shooting and race cars.
"Amazing America's" teaser "She's coming with a full heart and a full magazine," might be getting snickers but some think she's redefining political branding.
That's because, in this media obsessed culture, all of that on camera wilderness exploring, dog racing, and hunting, when coupled with fundraising and endorsing grassroots conservatives, adds up to a hefty boost in the Palin brand and political influence.
"It keeps her visible," said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian and CNN contributor. "The way she's doing this, through reality television, might be the way politics is moving. Some kind of combination of being active in political arena...and acting in reality television might work."
In many ways it has for Palin.
She turned her failed 2008 vice presidential bid into a one-woman franchise that includes highly sought after speaking engagements, political endorsements, book deals and pundit gigs
Her political action committee, SarahPAC, amassed just over $1 million through the end of last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The PAC netted more than $5 million in 2012 and was able to use that money to donate to dozens of tea party backed candidates such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona and, fellow reality television star-turned-politico, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin.
Given the demographics of the Sportsman Channel, Palin's new show will likely trend Republican, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Such viewership won't do much to expand her brand beyond her base of supporters.
"The people who would watch that would be disproportionately NRA members and white males to be blunt about it," Sabato said.
However, Palin can and likely will leverage that solidified support among her base to get voters to support candidates and causes she backs, political experts say.
"I've been very impressed with the way she has used her notoriety and her appeal to get the average American in tune with our government," said Crystal Wright, an editor and blogger with ConservativeBlackChick.Com who has spoken favorably of Palin in the past. "We've seen her grow and find her appropriate voice in the political arena. I'm not surprised she has her own TV show. The role she's had in the grassroots level in getting them engaged in the political process is a good one."
And there is, some conservatives point out, precedence for blurring the lines between celebrity and a political career.
"I think the answer lies in history. California twice elected actors to run the state. Did (Ronald) Reagan's film career (including Bedtime for Bonzo) limit him? Or Arnold's (Schwarzenegger) movies hamper his political career," said Mike Opelka, director of news operations at the conservative theblaze.com.
But the high profile celebrity approach to politics may not bode well for her immediate prospects as an elected official.
"She's making money," Sabato said. "That's all she has a motive to do right now. It can't be getting into politics. There's no way. She has negatives through the roof. It would be like Dan Quayle getting back in."
There is also risk in celebrity politics, political experts say.
"It could go either way. There's a way she can leverage it by remaining in the public eye and make it clear that she is a part of everyday America," Zelizer said. "The big danger is that she makes herself look silly and not serious."
Then again, Palin has had far more influence outside elected office than when she served as governor of Alaska.
"I don't know if it necessarily helps her expand the base as it solidifies the base," said Ben Fergusson, a conservative radio host and CNN political commentator who added that independent voters may turned off by Palin's popularity. "It may alienate others."
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