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Sarah Palin follows the Donald Trump method

By James C. Moore, Special to CNN
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 29, 2013
Sarah Palin speaks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum in Houston in May.
Sarah Palin speaks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum in Houston in May.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Moore: Sarah Palin's revival on the tea party stage increases her brand recognition
  • Moore: She's a marketing machine, taking every opportunity to raise her profile
  • Moore: Palin promotes tea party candidates in safe districts, never runs for office
  • He says her re-emergence comes just before release of her book defending Christmas

Editor's note: James C. Moore is a business consultant and partner at Big Bend Strategies, a business messaging firm. He is co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" and a TV political analyst.

(CNN) -- Sarah is selling Sarah. The former vice presidential candidate and half-term governor of Alaska is a commodity of one and a marketing machine. She has created a new politics of profit.

Palin's reanimation on the tea party stage probably means no more than the other intentions she has floated but never executed. She spent almost a year of the last presidential election cycle teasing the far right that she was going to run for president. She never did, but lots of network TV interviews and speculative articles drove up her name recognition and brand identification.

And she's not running again.

James C. Moore
James C. Moore

Palin is re-running the same show in her home state of Alaska by hinting that she is going to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate. She will not run though. There is too much risk of failure. She's not the near-unknown who was elected governor of Alaska and then quit 2½ years into the job. She has a profile, and she intends to use it to make money, which is one commitment she knows how to keep. Running and losing is always bad for business.

Palin is a product. Not a candidate.

Politically, Sarah Palin is an opposite gender version of Donald Trump. She makes grandiloquent statements about candidacies and a future that she knows will never transpire. Trump and Palin lack the courage to run for president but have profitably monetized the speculation about a candidacy. Trump cannot abide the notion of losing, which he knows is inevitable, and he fears what that might do to his image and revenue stream. Palin is self-aware enough to realize that she has neither the intellect nor popular support outside the increasingly unpopular tea party.

So why not make a buck?

In the detritus of the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, the second name emerged as the lead act. The first nine months after her resignation as governor, at the end of July 2009, Palin reportedly earned $12 million, including a book deal, a TV show and speaking fees that were generally more than $100,000 per appearance.

It's not hard to tell whether principle is more important than profit for the failed vice presidential candidate. The tea party has been charged $100,000 for a Palin speech, and, even as she promotes support of charities, a Toronto cancer center a few years ago paid $200,000 for her to attend a fund-raiser, and the event sold out at $200 a seat. Her politics and intelligence might be trifling, but Palin appears to have evolved a very nice business model: Raise the profile to raise the revenue, mostly for herself.

And she's back at it.

Until recently, Palin hasn't been too active, except on social media. She seems to have the entire national tea party population on her Facebook page, but the TV cameras had not been showing up when she gave her bargain-priced speeches. A love spat with Fox News that kept her off the air and then back into the network's arms has left her fans confused. Donations to Sarah PAC fell off. Why was no one paying attention?

Palinians should not fear. She has seen opportunity in the tea party and its plans to beat moderate Republicans in GOP primaries. This is a nearly risk-free approach to increased Sarah-wareness.

The candidate runs, Palin speaks and rallies the initiates. She endorses, and if the campaign fails it is the candidate's fault, not Palin's; she's moved on to help in another race. But the cameras came, reporters took notes, images were broadcast, words were published, and Palin's price went up.

Timing is critical to maximizing opportunity, of course. When the federal government shut down as a consequence of tea party obstinacy, Palin jetted off to Washington to help her ideological consort, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, as they crashed the "Barrycades" at the National World War II Memorial.

Those cameras and bullhorns and journalists were there. Palin had just arrived from New Jersey, where she had endorsed the hopeless tea party candidacy of Steve Lonegan, who lost, soundly, but not without Sarah getting TV time in New York.

In business school, they teach "know your customer." Palin might have attended that class because she is promising to help tea party candidates unseat GOP U.S. senators in South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee in 2014. The Sarah Promoting Sarah tour begins, however, several months ahead at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Foundation dinner on November 9.

In what is almost certainly a coincidence of timing, just three days later, Palin's new book goes on sale for the holidays. She has not written about the Constitution or her understanding of Paul Revere in the Revolutionary War; Palin, instead, is doing the much more challenging work of preventing further harm to Christmas. "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas," can already be pre-ordered. Get yours now. Or just send a check to Palin. She might not understand politics or policy, but Palin knows money.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James C. Moore.

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