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Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck in Alaska: testing the 2012 waters?

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While Palin ranked first in a July Gallup poll of top Republican presidential candidates, at 76 percent, her – and Beck’s – real motivations are less clear, says political scientist Stephen Medvic, author of the 2009 book “Campaigns/Elections: Players and Processes.” Running for president is much dirtier and less financially rewarding than what either of them is doing now, he notes.

“We saw back in 2004 that candidates such as Howard Dean could get a lot of attention with his ability to marshal social media, but ultimately it didn’t translate to the kind of traditional grass-roots organizing that will produce votes,” says Mr. Medvic. What’s going on now, he says, is that both Beck and Palin are exploring their ability to frame the debate and drive the issues for the election. The story will only be half over when all the various primaries are done, he says.

“We have to see in the general election and in key races,” says Medvic of the effect Palin's endorsement will have on candidates. It has been a mixed blessing to date, with Palin-backed candidates losing in Kansas, Washington, Wyoming, and Georgia. But, he adds, “if some do well in the general election, then her stock can continue to rise.”

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