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Palin remains a GOP player

From Candy Crowley, CNN Senior Political Correspondent
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Sarah Palin in 2012?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A year after the election, Sarah Palin is still a headline magnet
  • Fans and critics point to her stepping down as governor as her biggest political problem
  • GOP consultants say she'll help rebuild party, but won't be presidential nominee
  • CNN's "American Morning" this week looks at the next chapter for the GOP

Washington (CNN) -- She was a high-voltage candidate, lighting a fire in the grass roots 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 nonfiction presales.

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.

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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. She'll tape an interview with Oprah Winfrey this week to air on Monday to promote her book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," which comes out on Tuesday.

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.