People are beginning to notice that Sarah Palin has morphed into something quite new: not so much a political figure as a kind of multimedia brand, one for whom actual politics seems almost ancillary to the generation of greater and greater celebrity. When you look at Brand Palin, she begins to look like the Fox News of politicians.
I don't mean that so much in an ideological sense. Like Palin, Fox has a following that is small as a portion of the population but is extremely passionate and consumed with resentment at the "elites" who supposedly look down their noses at them. Serious people of all political stripes think both are kind of a joke, a badge which Palin and Fox wear with honor. Fox beats its cable competitors, but its top-rated show, "The O'Reilly Factor," gets about 3 million viewers a night, or one out of a hundred Americans. Likewise, most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Palin and think she's unqualified to be president. Both Fox and Palin have the ability to inject poisonous lies into the political debate (don't forget that she coined the term "death panel"). Despite their limited appeal, both Fox and Palin manage to get the rest of the media to pay lots and lots of attention to what they do, giving them an influence that far outstrips their actual support. And they both have translated their particular brand of conservatism into money-generating machines.
Fox will be around for a long time, while Palin may find that interest in her Facebook status updates could eventually wane. So some time in the next year, she's going to have to decide whether she wants to run for president. I think it's even money. On the one hand, nothing in the world can get you more attention than a presidential run, and like most politicians she craves attention. And after all, once there's a real GOP primary race going on, if you're not in it, you're not news anymore. But on the other hand, running for president, not to mention being president, is really, really hard work. And this is someone who couldn't muster up the energy to complete a single term as Alaska governor.
-- Paul Waldman