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Palin should follow Gingrich's advice -- and so should Newt

By Ed Rollins, CNN Senior Political Contributor
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin campaigns in October 2010 for a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin campaigns in October 2010 for a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
  • Sarah Palin says she's not going to "sit down or shut up"
  • Ed Rollins says Palin's critics are attacking her statement on Tucson shootings
  • He says he agrees with Newt Gingrich's advice that Palin take more care with her comments
  • Rollins says Palin, Gingrich likely to attract much of early attention for 2012 GOP nomination

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He is a principal with the Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations firm. He was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New York (CNN) -- Sarah Palin made it clear Monday in an interview on Fox's Sean Hannity show that she is not going to "sit down or shut up."

I don't think most Americans care whether she is standing or sitting, but many would like her to just "shut up." Even some Republicans would like her to stay in the wilderness with her newly earned riches and live happily ever after with her handsome and rugged husband, Todd, and her kids.

It isn't going to happen.

John McCain's selection of Palin in 2008 as his GOP running mate, after a 15-minute interview, launched her into the political stratosphere, where she now reigns as the most colorful and widely watched political figure in the country next to President Barack Obama. Even former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most polarizing figure in the 2010 elections, is now reduced to a secondary role.

While Arizona's Sen. McCain struggles to be relevant, his former running mate, without holding office or portfolio, continues to dominate news stories whenever she chooses to post on Facebook, tweet or appear on television.

Her it's-all-about-me performance after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, forced her critics to hyperventilate and pronounce her future prospects as a presidential contender dead on arrival. In spite of her incendiary remarks about "blood libel," which were assailed by her critics, the pronouncement of her political demise might be a little premature.

She says, "They're not going to shut me up." And I don't think they should.

Palin, like all citizens, has the right to express her thoughts and her opinions. Some will cheer her on, and some will be appalled by what she says.

I would argue that she needs to be careful with her words and needs to get more sophisticated in how she deals with the public and the media.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, himself a possible candidate for president, offered the following sage advice to the former governor of Alaska: "Slow down." He said Palin should "be more careful and think through what she's saying and how she's saying it."

Newt didn't always practice what he now preaches, and he paid a heavy price for some of his past words and actions. Always brilliant and a tireless political warrior, he has now become an elder statesman of the party and has somewhat rehabbed his tarnished reputation.

He will begin the presidential contest on the Republican side with a strong organization capable of serious fundraising and building a political grass-roots network that's second to none.

His team has some of the savviest communication experts around, and Newt understands the role of the message as well as that of being one of the party's foremost messengers. Palin at this point has none of that.

Her principal adviser is her husband, and she has no press operation other then her Facebook pronouncements and occasional Fox television appearances.

In the coming year as the race for the Republican nomination for 2012 begins, the news media and the political world will be focused on the "formers" -- former Speaker Gingrich and former Gov. Palin. The other major candidates for president are not anxious to begin the battle, with the possible exceptions of former Govs. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.

The new Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, is an unknown and doesn't see himself as the talk show type. That leaves Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to speak for the party, as they should. But neither will be the media star that the news media will look to focus on in the coming months.

That brings us back to Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Loved and hated, but unable to be ignored, both are going to be front and center until a Republican nominee is chosen. And of course one of them could emerge and be that person. I don't think so, but that's just my opinion. In the meantime, both have a responsibility to be accurate and thought-provoking.

Palin needs to better appreciate what her role as a major voice for the right and the Tea Party means. She needs to staff up and listen to some pros who know the game.

Newt needs to prove that the new Newt has learned the lessons of the past and to be a constructive force to make sure the new Republican majority in the House doesn't make the same mistakes the old majority did.

Most smart analysts don't see either one emerging as the Republican nominee, but they will certainly draw a lot of attention, and neither is going to go "gentle into that good night."

After all, the smart guys aren't always right when it comes to predicting who voters will pick. Just look at President Jimmy Carter, President Ronald Reagan and of course President Obama -- all three guys who weren't thought to be winners by the D.C. wise men.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.