Published November 22, 2008
Oprah Winfrey wants her, and so do other U.S. TV show hosts. Fresh from her political defeat, Sarah Palin is juggling offers to write books, appear in films and sit on dozens of interview couches at a rate that would be astonishing for most Hollywood stars, let alone a first-term governor.
The failed Republican vice presidential candidate, who is still Alaska's governor, crunched state budget numbers this week in her 17th-floor office as tumbling oil prices hit Alaska's revenues. Meanwhile, her staff fielded television requests seeking the 44-year-old Palin for late-night banter and Sunday morning Washington policy.
Agents, including those from the William Morris Agency, have come knocking. There's even been an offer to host a TV show.
"Tomorrow, Gov. Palin could do an interview with any news media on the planet," said her spokesman, Bill McAllister. "Tomorrow, she could probably sign any one of a dozen book deals. She could start talking to people about a documentary or a movie on her life. That's the level we are at here."
McAllister said he had "multiple conversations" with producers for Winfrey as well as some late night TV hosts and other shows.
Asked whether Winfrey was pursuing Palin for a sit-down, Michelle McIntyre, a spokeswoman for Winfrey's Chicago-based Harpo Productions Inc., said she was "unable to confirm any future plans" for the show.
Palin may have emerged from the Nov. 4 election politically wounded, with questions about her preparedness for higher office and reports of an expensive wardrobe, but she's returned to Alaska with an expanded, if unofficial, title -- international celebrity.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain plucked Palin out of relative obscurity in late August and put her on the Republican ticket. They lost to President-elect Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden.
Now, Palin has to decide how and where to spend her time, which could have implications for her political future and her bank account, with possible land mines of legal and ethical rules.
Palin is considering about 800 requests for appearances from December through 2009, with 75 percent coming from out of state. A year ago, just a sprinkle of requests came from beyond Alaska's borders. They range from invitations to speak at The Chief Executives' Club of Boston to attend a 5-year-old's birthday party, from a prayer breakfast in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a business conference in Britain.
She has invitations to make appearances in 20 foreign countries, typically with all expenses paid, McAllister said. She has more than 200 requests for media interviews, again from around the globe.
"She has to pace herself," suggested veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. "She wants a career made in a Crock-Pot, not a microwave."
In her two months on the national stage, Palin energized the Republican base but turned off moderates and independents, according to some surveys. Flubbed answers in national television interviews raised questions about her competence. She was embarrassed by the disclosure that the Republican National Committee spent at least $150,000 for designer clothing, accessories and beauty services for her and her family.
The right book or movie deal could help Palin reintroduce herself to the nation, on terms she could dictate.
While books and movie deals could be worth millions of dollars, it's not clear if Palin would be able to legally earn it. State rules say she cannot accept outside employment for compensation. But there appears to be little in the way of precedent left by former governors to judge if book deals or lucrative speaking appearances amount to "employment."
Palin has sent unmistakable signals she is open to running for president in 2012, but to advance her political ambitions she must stay in the public eye nationwide. As with any celebrity, there is the risk of overexposure. At the same time, she'll be under pressure to attend to governing her home state, which is thousands of miles from the rest of the nation.
"She has to deal with the perception that she bobbled her debut," said Claremont McKenna College political scientist John Pitney. "She needs to stay home for a while. If she wants a future in national politics, her No. 1 job is doing a good job as governor."
Just this week, shortly after conducting a string of national TV interviews and skipping a state education conference, she was scolded by the Anchorage Daily News. "There are ... low graduation rates, plummeting North Slope oil prices, proposals to build alternative energy projects, the gas pipeline," the paper said in an editorial. "It's time for the governor to refocus on Alaska's needs."