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She's baaack! Sarah Palin launches her next political journey at a Tennessee Tea Party

February 4, 2010 |  3:38 am

Republican Sarah Palin swamped by supporters in Carson City Nevada 9-08

Back by popular demand in some areas, ex-Mayor Sarah Palin will soon be popping up at a rally near many of us.

And, no, this isn't about selling the book, although savvy local bookstores should stock up.

First up is the national Tea Party Convention in Nashville on Saturday night, a time usually reserved on cable TV for stale stories of missing persons and Geraldo Rivera exposes.

So, let's see, as a TV producer, which would you choose to lure in idling weekend eyeballs: News rehashes or Sarah Palin addressing a crowd of fervent anti-tax people the night before the Super Bowl? Even a Harvard grad could figure that one out.

Hence, check your local politically extreme cable channel that evening. (UPDATE: Tea Party speeches including Palin's will also be live-streamed over here.) Even MSNBC, the White House's favorite channel, won't be able to resist this as SP herself begins a multi-month tour of speaking engagements across the country, helping Republican candidates but -- gee, who knows? -- she might reap some benefit too.

Moving forward, as they say in the nation's capitol of blab.

Some pre-convention pushing and shoving in Music City scared off some other....

...Republican speakers. But Palin is patiently constructing her own political base for the next year or two, one rally, one handshake and one signed book at a time.

Which happens to be precisely the hands-on, grassroots way she ousted the old GOP geezers who ran the Alaska Republican Party for so long and thought they could keep Palin in her place. And then she took on a better-known Democrat who'd already been a governor and knew how politics worked. And she waxed him too.

The bigwigs of both parties, who went to fancy Eastern schools and share an insider's understanding about how the usual political game has been played in D.C., don't really know what to make of or do with Palin. The same way they initially felt about the spontaneous explosion of tea parties that have changed the nation's political landscape, expectations and rules in just 10 months.

Looking at Palin, the Democrats fall back on the dummy stereotype, you know, the stupid Republican thing they tried on Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and Bush I and Bush II, who like Reagan beat them twice anyway.

But Palin puzzles, even frightens the Republican Party potentates too. Because Bush II clung to Dick Cheney for two terms, there was a stark leadership void, no VP heir trained on the job. So, now it's jumpball in the Republican Party. And guess who played some physical basketball for an AlaSarah Palinska state champion?

Palin may end up going nowhere nationally come 2012. She made many rookie mistakes last year, though fewer recently. But imagine her political clout if only she can keep the motivated Tea Party crowd within the Republican Party.

Unlike most of her party's stiff-suited talking heads on Capitol Hill, Palin connects with millions of regular Americans who know about hunting and union husbands working two jobs and going to church and the thrill of snowmobiling and family hurdles like Downs syndrome and teen pregnancy.

Her fans know they like her and don't care what she doesn't know, just as Obama fans don't care that he counted 57 states, thought Canada has a president and Austrians speak Austrian.

The GOP has been a party where political personalities are supposed to serve a generation or two somewhere before inheriting anything as consequential as a presidential nomination.

Someone like, say, a desperate John McCain, whose turn it was in 2008. So he's going up against Captain Charisma that fall and, needing a game-changer, plucks this pretty, volatile nobody from Nowhere, Alaska. The McCain crowd lit Palin's fuse and then tried to contain her in an orthodox campaign box. Obviously, she and many other things, including a tanking Wall Street, didn't work for him. 

Bingo. Another GOP leadership void. Unless you're excited by a Mike Huckabee flat-tax sermon.

The Tea Party folks wereSarah Palin 2012 bumper sticker made for Palin, folks who don't like big government, big taxes and big media.

Enthusiastic folks, many of them new to politics, who want some real American change to believe in (gee, that sounds strangely familiar?). And these disaffected voters don't mind the idea of a female delivering such change, even if she is largely dismissed by the elite Establishments, all of them.

In fact, especially because she is dismissed by those Establishments. The more dismissive the powers that be are of Palin, the more these folks adore her. Why? Because they've felt ignored and dismissed and patronized themselves for a very long time. And no one listened to them. Or could really speak for them.

Until now.

Read here how Palin explains why she's going to Tennessee:

This movement is truly a grassroots, organic effort. It's not a top-down organization; it's a ground-up call to action that already has both political parties rethinking the way they do business.

From the town halls last summer to the protests and marches in the fall to the game-changing recent elections, it has been inspiring to see real people — not politicos or inside-the-Beltway professionals — speak out for common-sense conservative policies and values.

As with all grassroots efforts, the nature of this movement means that sometimes the debates are loud and the organization is messier than that of a polished, controlled machine. Legitimate disagreements take place about tone and tactics. That's OK, because this movement is about bigger things than politics or organizers. The soul of the Tea Party is the people who belong to it.

So, Saturday Nashville. Sunday Houston with Gov. Rick Perry. Next month Columbus, Ohio, where she's loyally donated to the campaigns of party regulars John Kasich and Rob Portman. And Searchlight, Nevada. And Boston after that.

All of which Palin can do because she quit her governor's job, earned a small fortune in money and a large fortune in media coverage off her bestselling book and her SarahPAC has accumulated a couple million dollars.

Fact is, love her or loathe her, Palin is doing everything wrong. Unless the game has changed.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press; Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times.

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