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Sarah Palin on TLC: Another candidate-in-waiting with a paid TV gig?

'Sarah Palin's Alaska' debuts on TLC on Sunday, joining one of the hottest trends in politics: the future candidate as TV personality. Can viewers tell where a show ends and a campaign begins?

By Staff writer / November 12, 2010

In this publicity image, former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is shown by the family boat in Dillingham, Alaska, in a scene from the reality series 'Sarah Palin's Alaska,' which premieres on TLC on Nov. 14.

Gilles Mingasson/AP Photo/TLC

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In what has 2012 election-watchers holding their breath, former governor Sarah Palin takes to the basic cable airwaves on Sunday with her home state reality show/travelogue, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” on TLC at 9 PM.

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The show doesn’t answer the question of whether she will run for president in 2012, although it does address another pressing Palin mystery: Can we see Russia from there? “Almost,” she says.

But it does fit into one of the hottest political trends of the past few years: political hopefuls landing paid gigs on national media outlets as they unofficially nurse their greater political ambitions. Whether the goal is national, (think Mike Huckabee with his own Fox show, or Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ms. Palin – all on the Fox payroll) or statewide (think Eliot Spitzer, whom many speculate is priming the pump for another run at New York State attorney general or even governor, now with his own daily CNN show), this is the campaign strategy-du-jour.

The big trend

“This is the big trend right now,” says Atlanta-based Republican strategist David Johnson. The current craze kicked off in 1999 with Mr. Gingrich, who took a news analyst job with Fox. The move has accelerated in the past two years as Fox News has expanded its stable of whisper candidates on the payroll – and others have hustled to remain competitive. Each politician who gets a national soapbox ups the ante, says Mr. Johnson. In the ferocious 24-hour news cycle, he adds, “everyone is now jostling to keep their name in front of the public, whether it’s a reality show, an analyst post, or a radio or TV program,” he adds.

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