Sarah Palin: Center of the GOP universe?

Love her or hate her, GOP leaders can't stop talking about the former Alaska governor – even if they want to.

Brian Chilson / AP / File
Sarah Palin, shown here on Nov. 30, signing copies of her book, 'America By Heart,' in Little Rock, Ark., can't stop getting talked about. Her Monday night appearance with Sean Hannity became fodder for Tuesday's political programming.

Yes, Sarah Palin’s poll numbers haven’t looked great lately. Only about 30 percent of Americans approved of her rhetorical response to the Arizona shooting rampage, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey.

But we’ll say this for the ex-governor of Alaska: up or down, rising or falling, she remains the center of the Republican universe, potential presidential candidate division.

Why do we say this? Because so many other political figures, when they appear on news chat shows, get asked what they think about her latest move.

Monday night, for instance, Ms. Palin appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. She attempted to defend herself against accusations that she misused the term “blood libel” when talking about how some critics tried to link political rhetoric to the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

So of course, the burning question reporters asked other, non-Palin political guests on Tuesday: How did she do?

Newt Gingrich sounded kind of jealous. On ABC Tuesday morning he opined that Palin needs to “slow down” and “think through what she’s saying.” Then he added that “I don’t know anybody else in American politics who can put something on Twitter or put something on Facebook and automatically have it become a national story.”

Dick Cheney admitted that he likes her reality show. Appearing on MSNBC, he was noncommittal about her personally, saying only that “she’s got an interesting political career established” and that he’s “not going to get into the business” of saying whether she’s qualified for president or not. (Hmm. Is that a backhanded non-compliment?) But Bush’s ex-veep, an ardent outdoorsman himself, said he’d watched “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on the Learning Channel.

“I think it’s very good. I love Alaska,” Cheney said.

Tim Pawlenty, former GOP governor of Minnesota and, like Gingrich, a potential 2012 candidate, appeared to be trying to get past her as a subject during his own MSNBC appearance Tuesday. Palin is “a very powerful voice in the conservative movement,” he said, and “you’re going to have conflict” when conservatives try to steer the political culture of the party in a new direction.

Pawlenty was probably wondering if Sarah Palin has ever been asked what she thought of the latest Tim Pawlenty interview. We’re guessing she hasn’t.

And finally, Tim Kaine called her “an entertainment industry figure.” He’s the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, of course, so he wasn’t likely to give Palin a rave review. On MSNBC he questioned whether Palin likes the process of governing, considering that she resigned her Alaska post.

“People are in this for a lot of reasons. And, you know, sometimes wanting to get headlines, it’s a venerable American tradition,” said Kaine.

As for Palin herself, she said on Monday night that she had used the phrase “blood libel” to refer to people who are falsely accused of having blood on their hands.

Some Jewish groups had protested her use of the term, which historically was used to accuse Jews of using the Christian blood in religious ceremonies.

“I think the critics . . . were using anything they could gather out of that statement,” said Palin.

The former VP candidate added that she knows attention, good and bad, now just naturally flows to her.

“I’ll take the darts and the arrows because I know others have my back and I have their back,” Palin said at the end of the Hannity interview.

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