[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/14/palin.persistent/art.palin.gi.jpg caption="Sarah Palin remains most recognizable name in the Republican Party."]
CNN Senior Political Correspondent
She was a high-voltage candidate, lighting a fire in the grassroots of Republican-land - fresh, folksy and fierce.
She famously belittled her party's presidential opponent, Barack Obama, at her coming-out party at the 2008 Republican National Convention: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."
Sarah Palin remains a force - the most recognizable name in the
Republican Party, a headline magnet. Just over a year after the defeat of the Republican ticket, the Republican No. 2 is Amazon.com's No. 1 in non-fiction pre-sales. Writer of books, giver of speeches, muser of politics on an unusually active Facebook account. And robo-caller on behalf of a conservative group in this year's Virginia governor's race.
A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found 85 percent of Republicans say Palin agrees with them on their most important issues. But only 49 percent of independents feel that way.
It's a telling measure of her political reach - and its limits - that
the Republicans who won governor seats in Virginia and New Jersey this year politely rejected Palin's offers to campaign for them.
Both governors-elect owe their victories to huge majorities of
independent voters. Palin's clout is inside the party. In a New York congressional race, she helped push a Republican Party candidate out of the way for a more conservative one. But with that battle won, Palin lost the war - the split made way for a Democratic victory.
These days, Palin is doing selected interviews, the first this week with Oprah Winfrey, to promote her book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," which comes out next week.
Palin is a politician fueled by her celebrity, which is lucrative, but
not necessarily good. "Americans tend not to elect celebrities," said David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. "Arnold Schwarzenegger is the exception, but more often than not, people want something in their political leaders that is more steady, stable, and predictable."
Fans and critics inevitably point to Palin's quitting as Alaska's governor, with about a year and a half left in her first term, as her biggest political problem. "Only dead fish go with the flow," she said as she was stepping down.
It's that kind of rogueness that made her a household name, but in the end may make Palin a player who helps shape the party rather than lead it. Of six Republican consultants interviewed - including four who supported the Palin nomination - all see her as playing a part in rebuilding the party. None thought she would be the next Republican presidential nominee, and only two thought she would even run.
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