- Image 1 of 3
- Image 2 of 3
- Image 3 of 3
Sarah Palin is keeping a tight lid on her political ambitions for 2012, but her influence on other would-be politicians can by seen by the growing number of women she has inspired to seek public office.
The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate's conservative philosophies and her folksy, hockey-mom approach to politics have galvanized other mothers to launch political campaigns -- at all levels of government -- aimed at reducing big-government spending.
Even Palin's real-life family dramas -- like her teenage daughter's pregnancy -- add to her appeal, her followers say.
Patricia Sullivan, a mother of four who is running in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson in Florida's 8th Congressional District, says Palin's authenticity and rejection of Washington elitism inspired her to launch her own political run.
"She is real America," Sullivan said in an interview Wednesday with FoxNews.com. "She's brought more recognition to the fact that moms can do it all."
Sullivan announced early last month that she would seek to challenge Grayson, whose first term in Congress has been marked by several controversies, including calling a female adviser to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke a "K Street whore."
"I think that for a long time people see politicians as part of an elite establishment, and our nation's at a crossroads where the American people realize that the elite establishment has gotten us into a mess," Sullivan said, sounding themes associated with Palin.
Lisbeth "Liz" Carter of Atlanta is planning a run for the Republican nomination to battle Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson in Georgia's 4th Congressional District. She said Palin possesses a quality that many career politicians lack: common sense.
"Her views are simple and basic," said Carter, a 40-year-old mother and CEO of a small consulting group that assists private companies in executive recruitment. "She's a leader who inspired people to step up and say we've had enough.
"She doesn't put herself up in an ivory tower and say 'I know what's best for you,'" Carter said, adding that she thinks Palin was "mishandled" last year by both the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee.
"She was sort of put into a box, and her true spirit and her passion were not allowed to really shine through," she said. "She wasn't just a pretty picture standing next to John McCain."
Palin's post-campaign popularity has soared in recent weeks as she has barnstormed the country on a whirlwind book promotion tour.
A Fox News poll conducted Nov. 17 to 18 found that 47 percent of respondents are more likely to give Palin a favorable rating than they are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And about six in 10 polled said the former Alaska governor has been treated unfairly by the press.
Even Palin cites her simplistic approach toward government and her down-to-earth demeanor as qualifications for public office.
"I have common sense and I have, I believe the values that are reflective of so many other American values," she said in a recent interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. "I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism."
Denel Wardell, who is running for a state senator seat in Lauderdale County, Ala., told FoxNews.com that Palin's views inspired her to seek office.
"My first obligation is to the people who elect me, not to the party I'm running on. And Sarah Palin made her first obligation the American public," said Wardell, who has recently worked as a tea party organizer.
"She's not manufactured. She's one of us," she said.
But Sullivan and Carter face an uphill battle in challenging incumbents whose name recognition and financial might make them tough opponents.
Grayson, who represents a swing district, has enjoyed a flood of monetary support since assuming office in January. The self-proclaimed "Democrat with guts" raked in $100,000 the day after he said on the House floor that Republicans want sick patients to "die quickly." He has said his brazen statements will likely help win him re-election.
Johnson has also garnered widespread attention in recent months. Referring to South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie" outburst during President Obama's address before Congress, the Georgia Democrat said in September that people will be putting on "white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside" if emerging racist attitudes are not rebuked.
Johnson, who was elected to Congress in 2006, serves on both the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees.