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If Palin runs, she will be a brand-new kind of candidate

Published 6:18pm Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sarah Palin’s been good at having it both ways, by which I mean for all the media attention she gets we don’t know much about her except what she wants us to see, like on her Alaskan reality show.

ebyAbsent much of anything substantive, Time magazine portrays her on its Dec. 20 cover as a partially-painted by-number portrait because she dances around the question of whether she wants to be President or just rich (banking an estimated $13 million) and famous more adroitly than daughter Bristol’s cagey moves on “Dancing with the Stars.”

We get a strong sense of her as a person watching her at home on comfortable turf in Alaska — Sarah Barracuda’s afraid of heights — but her disdain for the “lamestream media,” which is captivated by her charisma even while dismissing her as two lite to stand up to traditional White House scrutiny.

The nannyless mother of five has been a conservative celebrity now for a couple of years, yet I think this is the first glimpse I’ve ever gotten at her unusual entourage.

Where others have a Karl Rove, she has First Dude Todd.

Her speechwriter, Rebecca Mansour, was so disenchanted with George W. Bush’s “handling of the wars, fiscal issues, Katrina (and) the debate over immigration” she bolted the GOP in 2006 and even tried volunteering for Barack Obama.

Mansour is assisted with research by Joshua Livestro, a Dutch national who lives in England and has never met Palin.

Eric Welch is the country music videographer of all three of her acclaimed videos, “Mama Grizzlies,” “Tea Party” and “Together.”

One of her adviser friends is a Democrat, Washington lawyer John Coale.

He got to know Palin through his wife, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. He set up her Political Action Committee (PAC).

Its Treasurer Tim Crawford says, “I can give my two cents, but the governor makes her own decisions. No one’s pulling her strings. There’s no puppet master.” At 58, the Virginian is the oldest, a veteran of the Reagan White House.

In less than two years her PAC raised more than $5 million — more than Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour combined, but less than Mitt Romney’s $8 million to $9 million because of fewer events.

Palin’s foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheuneman, came over from the McCain campaign to brief her before the vice presidential debate and stayed on.

Two advance men, Doug McMarlin from Columbus, Ohio, and Jason Recher from New Orleans, who have worked together since 1999 and previously did advance work for George W. Bush.

Researcher and political adviser Andrew Davis, 33, of Sacramento, also served with Bush as a deputy campaign manager for the 2004 re-election. She hired Davis in early 2010 to vet the 92 Republicans Palin endorsed during the November midterms.

I was surprised by how spread out they are, considering she seems to keep pretty close to her lakeside home in Wasilla where Fox installed her a studio.

Their protectiveness of the boss is what unites them.

In hindsight, it’s hard to recall that Palin reacted reluctantly to Facebook after the bashing she took during the ’08 campaign.

This former moderate Republican who appealed to independents has moved way right.

Time credits Bristol and Willow with getting Mom to give social networking another try once she resigned the Alaska governorship.

Her first post in August 2009 while she was in San Diego writing her book was the one accusing the Obama White House of creating “death panels” as part of health care reform.

That was more than 300 messages ago.

Now she has 2.5 million Facebook fans and obviously sees the upside to this “great way to communicate with people directly without the media filter” or Katie Couric poking into her reading habits.

At a safe distance from scrutiny, except on her terms, she promotes a second book and her television show and pops up on her terms.

A household name, she has no need for media machinery like a central office and satellites in the early primary states which attended someone grooming themselves for a White House campaign back when her neighbor, Joe McGinniss, was writing “The Selling of the President” about Richard Nixon in 1968.

We know from her show that she’s obsessed with McGinniss.

The only segment of the population more flummoxed than the media are old-guard Republicans. Barbara Bush verbalized she hopes Palin stays in Alaska.

“The same leaders who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private,” wrote MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, a Republican congressman in a previous life.

President Obama said Nov. 24 he doesn’t “think about” Palin.

How could he not pay attention to political intuition, even if she is content to stay a political provocateur and permanent pundit who dabbles in politics when it suits.

“She has amazing instincts,” says Mansour, 36, a former Hollywood screenwriter.

She also clearly relishes the role of an underdog taking on the “good-ol’-boy network.”

While she sits coyly on the fence, driving the lamestream media to drink more, the rest of the potential GOP field is stranded in limbo to speculate about her ultimate intention — and they could linger there awhile because Palin could announce much later than a conventional candidate.

More than boring old white men who confront her, Palin is an entertaining barbed doll whose zingers are deadly.

While Obama was busy not thinking of her last summer, she took a divot out of his golfing with “I’m very busy helping people and causes. So busy, in fact, I haven’t had time to hit the links in quite a few years.”

The journalism major mocks Obama’s “vast” nuclear-arms experience gleaned as a community organizer.

“He sees America as the problem, I see America as the solution,” says Palin, comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter and seeing him as vulnerable to “someone who can draw a sharp contrast.”

John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at

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