Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) is on the national political scene again, using the English language and leveling charges against Obama in ways that really only she can.
In the last week, we've seen Palin employ a most unusually arranged assortment of words to endorse GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, then wrestle with a sensitive family matter that most people would prefer never to face -- or at least do so in private. But a domestic violence arrest -- for Palin's son, Track -- is not private. It is, in fact a matter of public record. And, what Palin had to say about it certainly made a claim for privacy almost non-applicable. Palin suggested her son is suffering with PTSD and that the incident of alleged abuse is, in some way, Obama's fault.
It has, in that way, been a week of classic Palin: Big speeches about dark things and fears, delivered in the form of cheery aphorisms studded with malapropisms, and a public relations-driven effort to try to move past or distract from a family crisis.
It almost feels like 2008 again, when debating and discussing Sarah Palin, what she represents and what she means (philosophically and literally) was still fresh and new and people across the political spectrum seemed convinced that Palin was a figure poised to upend the established political order.
Just after the Republican Party's August national convention where Palin became its official vice presidential candidate, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found McCain went from down by 8 percentage points among white woman to ahead by 12 points -- from 42 percent to 53 percent. Obama dropped from 50 percent to 41 percent. Similarly, a second poll conducted by Newsweek found that between July and August, McCain's support among white women jumped from 44 percent to 53 percent.
Newsweek confidently proclaimed that Palin's candidacy seemed to be changing what had long been assumed about the way that voters respond to female candidates. Palin was a woman with five children -- one of them with special needs and very young and one of them a teenager about to have a child of her own. But conservative women didn't have a problem with her running or potentially taking on a demanding role in the White House. And it seemed that many women tied more closely to the political left either saw some things in her to admire or felt certain that the media had been unfairly hard on Palin.
But by the next month, there were signs that something Palin was doing or saying was no longer working with many women.
In late September, about one month before the election, a Time magazine poll found that among likely voters, Palin was actually doing best among men. About 52 percent of men described themselves as Palin fans. With women, the situation between the 'she likes me, she likes me' not was pretty close. A full 45 percent of likely women voters reported a negative view of Palin.
That month, Gallup produced a multi-month look at the so-called "Palin effect." The takeaway seemed to be that there wasn't one.
The attention paid to white women's response to Palin had a lot to do with decades of political science showing that most voters are more inclined to seriously consider candidates with whom they have all sorts of things in common (and we are not referring to political ideals here). Minority voters have not always had such an option, but in the decades since the number of candidates of color first began to rise in municipal, state and other election, that pattern has shown up too.
By the first days of November 2008, when a CNN-ORC poll was released showing that if American adults had a chance to cast just a vote for vice president, Palin would have garnered 42 percent of the vote, while Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Joe Biden would have claimed 55 percent.
We are all aware of exactly how that election turned out. But, this detail matters: In the end, the all male Obama-Biden ticket beat out the McCain-Palin ticket when it came to women's votes. The Democratic ticket claimed 56 percent of votes cast by women (of all races), while the Republicans took 43 percent. The gender gap was basically the way it has been in almost every recent presidential election.
Palin then seemed to embark on an extended consolation tour that included resigning from the office of Alaska governor, engaging in various efforts to endorse, support and generally pump up the prospects of 2010 tea party candidates and becoming a regular on Fox News.
And, Palin pretty reliably said things that were, well, Palin-like in nature. People started to talk and write about what was beginning to look like the end of a once-promising national political figure. Palin, it seemed, was Palin's biggest problem.
In July 2014, Sarah Palin took to calling for Obama's impeachment for, as she put it, "years of abuse" culminating in a crisis at what she described as an unsecured southern border. And, because she is Palin, her language got a lot more colorful than that. "His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'No mas.'"
That's what Palin wrote in a piece for Breitbart that month. Then, an NBC-Wall Street Journal-Annenberg poll found that a full 54 percent of voters described themselves as maxed out on Palin and her opinions on political issues. More specifically, they told researchers they had "heard enough from Palin and would prefer that she be less outspoken in political debates."
For some perspective, somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of voters surveyed in that same poll felt the same way about Jesse Jackson, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney.
And these are, of course, just a few moments in Sarah Palin history. Now that she's back, expect the speculation about where her political talents and unusual speaking patterns can take her to resume once again.