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Lauren Ashburn Headshot

Will Sarah Palin Bring Us 'Morning in America'?

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'Morning in America' is considered one of the most effective, game-changing political video campaign ads ever made. Unveiled at the Republican convention in 1984, its message was simple: Electing incumbent President Ronald Reagan equals rebirth, a new start to a bleak world. The pictures painted a happy, productive America where average Joes headed to work in droves and optimism and patriotism abounded.

Fast forward and we are now a nation mired in pessimistic messages from bleak job statistics to Capitol Hill gridlock to economic woes not seen since the Great Depression. There is no rebirth on the horizon that can be seen through the blizzard of bad news. If '1984 Reagan' painted a canvas of spring with daffodils and daisies, '2010 Obama' puts us smack dab in the middle of winter where the winds blow cold.

We can all take turns pointing fingers and finding fault for frigid temps. But in the words of former President George W. Bush, "I think we agree, the past is over." Going forward the race is on to see who can galvanize the electorate and lead us to Morning Again in America.

The roadmap for President Obama post midterms has been outlined ad nauseum by anyone with a microphone: Promote your policies, pick smart political battles, and show up as the candidate so many believed in two years ago. If that happens, we could see him take a page from the Clinton playbook and be the "Teflon" candidate where nothing -- not even the economy and his disappointed base sticks to him. Based on his record so far, it doesn't seem likely. But to invoke Martin Sheen's Chief of Staff character in The American President when talking about his boss' need to get back in the game: That's a campaign I'd like to see.

Now to wade in to prognosticators picks and a wide-open race for the nomination: Pawlenty, Romney, Huckabee, and yes, Sarah Palin. Democratic media strategists are already scratching their heads trying to pinpoint their Republican competitor. On a recent trip to New York, my seatmate, a Democratic media strategist canvassing the country, boldly proclaimed, "They don't have anybody." She added that Sarah Palin, former Alaska Governor and 2008 failed Republican vice presidential nominee, is so far down in the polls that she is not a "viable" candidate.

While it's true a new Gallup poll shows Palin's unfavorable numbers at a new high -- 52 percent -- she continues to reinvent herself by commanding a masterful media presence on Facebook and Twitter; headlining her own reality series; and feeding the sharks -- this time by saying in this Sunday's New York Times magazine cover story she's considering a run. "I'm engaged in the internal deliberations candidly, and having that discussion with my family, because my family is the most important consideration here." These are family members we know all too well. We've followed the saga of daughter Bristol's on-and-off again nuptials on the cover of People magazine and have watched her trounce the competition in Dancing with the Stars.

Palin is leading us where no political candidate has gone before. She's harnessed multiple forms of media and entertainment to her advantage. Her rock climbing, dog sledding TLC cable reality show is one long Palin commercial designed to show us the modern Renaissance woman hard at work. The clip that's played endlessly on television promoting "Sarah Palin's Alaska" pictures her on the water picking a gnat out of her teeth. While it may have been real, the promotion is carefully crafted to show her as a relatable, down-to-earth outdoorswoman.

While it may seem that she's promoting Sarah Palin for Sarah Palin's personal gain, this looks very much like a newfangled campaign directed solely at her base. She's redefining the rules set by the "lamestream" media (as she calls them) by avoiding press conferences and rarely sitting for one-on-one interviews. She appears almost daily on Fox News, and makes her views directly known through her 300,000 plus Twitter followers. She is not letting "some 20 year-old kid" write her tweets as President Obama has admitted. But just like him, she can play the author card with her new book America By Heart coming out next week.

Regardless of what you think of Palin's politics or whether she is qualified (read: smart enough) to head the Executive Branch, you have to admire the way she's running circles around the boys' club. While my seatmate, polls and other Democrats may say Palin isn't viable as the Republican front-runner, and I, in part, agree. It would seem that her maverick media strategy with some Morning in America messaging is the wild card that could prove us wrong.

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