Sarah Palin doesn't really do compromise. Defiance is more her style. So when other Republicans began to go soft on their promises to "repeal and replace" Barack Obama's landmark health care reform, the former Alaska governor went reliably rogue. Wearing a trim black leather jacket and pencil skirt, Palin appeared at a rally for John McCain in Arizona and urged the GOP faithful not to quail now. "I see Fidel Castro likes Obamacare, and we don't," she taunted. "Doesn't that tell you something?"
Palin is consolidating her position as the most powerful person in the Republican party. She signed a deal reportedly worth millions to be featured in an eight-episode series about Alaska on TLC, and she'll add that gig to her richly compensated duties at Fox News, where she is an occasional political pundit. She has another book on the way, following the best seller Going Rogue, and numerous private speaking engagements. She remains hotly in demand.
At the same time, she is maneuvering for position as the race for 2012 warms up. Palin is making time to help a roster of Republican candidates between now and November. She laughs off the notion that rough language might incite further acts of aggression against Democrats; instead, she's put crosshair markings on her Facebook page to identify lawmakers she has targeted for defeat in the fall election. Quippy and tart, she mocks the "lamestream media" for distracting voters by distorting GOP positions. And by carefully controlling her own visibility, she has become more irresistible as cable-news and viral content.
Stumping in the Southwest over the weekend, Palin proved that she is one heck of a Sun Belt candidate. Within the conservative movement, she still has unmatched appeal. Joining McCain on the trail for the first time since the end of their unsuccessful 2008 campaign, Palin delivered the goods for the 73-year-old Senator, who is struggling to win his party's nomination for a fifth term. She earnestly and at times poignantly argued that McCain is a true Tea Party conservative. She said the movement is short on battle-tested, experienced veterans in Congress to take the fight to the Democrats alongside younger firebrands like Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and Palin herself. "We need new blood," she said, "but we also need heroes and statesmen."
The joint appearance was nostalgic and at times a little awkward. Palin gratefully credits McCain for her newfound fame, wealth and power. McCain is fascinated by Palin's ability to draw a crowd and make news; he also feels a sense of responsibility for the intense scrutiny and radical life changes that have befallen Palin and her family. Thousands of people came to the Pima County Fairgrounds, many of them apparently there to see Palin rather than the actual candidate--something Cindy McCain highlighted in her brief remarks, to nervous laughter. Notably, all the cable news networks (Fox News included) cut away from live coverage once Palin had concluded her remarks and McCain began his.