Sarah Palin's Alaska: You know you want to watch it

The new reality TV show "Sarah Palin's Alaska" premiers Sunday night. Palin's image has been slipping lately, according to recent polls. Will her new show change that?

By , Staff writer

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    Sarah Palin and her husband Todd fish as part of the TLC channel's "Sarah Palin's Alaska." There is nothing overtly political about it, but her outdoorsy image against the stunning scenery often plays nicely with her familiar political message.
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Go ahead. Admit it. You can’t wait to tune into “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” premiering on TLC Sunday night.

Sarah, Todd, and all the Palin kids hanging out at home or showing us Alaska’s natural wonders as backdrop to their vigorous outdoor life. Maybe even a peek into her home broadcast studio where she talks on-air to the guys back at Fox News. Hey, Bristol might show us a few of her "Dancing with the Stars" samba moves!

IN PICTURES: Sarah Palin's fashion

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What’s not to like?

Like all “reality” shows, it’s largely scripted. But we don’t care. Former governor Palin – who’s been stirring up American politics ever since she rocketed from political obscurity to become the Republican vice presidential candidate and then the tea party’s Mama Grizzly – often seems unscripted anyway. So what passes for “reality” may actually be reality. (Or the other way around. I’m not sure.)

Palin’s reality TV ploy has kept political pundits guessing about her motive.

“Why she thought that was a good idea, considering that she complained regularly about the media’s intrusion into her family life when she was John McCain’s running mate in 2008 (while, at the same time, frequently putting her children on display), is a mystery,” writes Nancy Franklin in the New Yorker. “Moreover, you might ask, how seriously will people take her as a political candidate – a Presidential candidate – once she has participated in a reality show?”

The first part is easy: Palin has complete control of the situation. The kids are on-screen when she (and, presumably, Todd) wants them to be. Her image – love it or hate it – will remain intact, maybe even be improved upon.

The second part of Franklin’s observation is exactly what GOP strategic guru Karl Rove has been asking.

“Appearing on your own reality show … I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of ‘that helps me see you in the Oval Office,’ ” Rove told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, also suggesting that Palin lacked the "gravitas" to be elected president in 2012.

But if the midterm elections proved anything, it was that “gravitas” – typically associated with Washington insiders – is not necessarily at the top of voters’ lists. It may be a suspect attribute, in fact.

If Palin is serious about seeking elective office, as she hints she may do – or even just keeping her lucrative writing, lecturing, and broadcast career going – then image is all.

That could be a problem.

A Gallup survey out this past week shows Palin’s unfavorability rating at 52 percent – the highest it’s been since she joined McCain on the Republican presidential ticket two years ago. Her 40 percent favorability rating ties her previous lowest score.

Not surprisingly, she rates higher with Republicans (80 percent) than with Democrats (15 percent) or Independents (35 percent). This leads Gallup’s Lydia Saad to conclude that Palin “is clearly in a strong position” to seek the presidential nomination in 2012, but her overall unfavorability rating “casts some doubt on her viability in the general election.”

Meanwhile, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, Palin is “the most polarizing of the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates.” In reporting the poll, which included questions about other GOP presidential hopefuls, the AP calls Palin “the best-known and most divisive of the bunch.”

“Best-known” is good, “divisive” is bad.

It remains to be seen whether “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” will change any of that. But Palin is betting it will as millions of Americans tune in. In any case, it’s really, really good image massaging at no cost to her.

“Based on projected [viewer] deliveries and estimated [advertising] spot costs, Palin could receive as much as $2.25 million in free media exposure per episode, or $18 million for the entire series,” writes Anthony Crupi on Adweek.com. “In other words, if Palin were to make a run for the White House in 2012, TLC will have gifted the world’s most famous hockey mom with an unprecedented tide of soft-focus campaign support.”

IN PICTURES: Sarah Palin's fashion

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