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Palin’s Popularity Pickle

She’s young, she’s talented, and to many in the GOP ranks, it’s only a matter of time before (gosh darn it!) people start liking Sarah Palin again. But is this whole working-the-refs angle — in the pages of Esquire, to John Ziegler (yes, the same one), in her tête-à-tête with the Anchorage Daily News — really the best idea?

Some conservative bloggers don’t think so; here’s Ace of Spades on the Ziegler interview:

I don’t like this interview. I was trying to figure out why. I think I know. Even though it’s interesting to know about Palin’s reaction to her mistreatment by the media, I think we are now getting well oversaturated on such personal stuff. It’s too much the Heroine’s Tale, which is nice and all, but we’re ultimately looking for a leader, not someone with a tale of hardship.

The media screwed her — this is obvious. Maybe she should just move past such questions — not letting them off the hook, but also not dwelling on them — and make her interviewers focus on substantive, political questions.

I, of course, love to slam the media for its bias. A lot of readers and commenters love it too. I’m just not sure if it’s a very savvy use of Sarah Palin’s time to comment upon it herself.

I think we can acknowledge that Palin had a rough go of things with the media. But I think we can also acknowledge one of the central mistakes made by both the McCain and Hillary Clinton campaigns: they treated the media as an exogenous factor, something which happens to them, rather than something within their locus of control. Complaining about the media is not a media strategy.

Nor do I know that Palin is liable to get much sympathy outside of her base. There hasn’t been much polling on Palin lately, but there was an NBC/WSJ (.pdf) poll conducted about a month ago asked for favorability ratings on the four Presidential contenders and found Palin stuck in neutral, at 35/45 positive/negative in December as opposed to 39/48 in late October, with 30 percent still holding a strongly negative view of her. John McCain saw his negatives soften significantly, as did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and as had John Kerry following the 2004 election — but not Palin (Joe Biden’s ratings, for the record, were also not terrific).

People weren’t turned off by Palin because of the questions about her wardrobe or baby Trig. They were turned off because — fairly or not — they couldn’t become comfortable with the idea of her sitting in the White House. Giving interviews to the likes of John Ziegler or exchanging nastygrams with the Anchorage Daily News isn’t going to get her to be taken more seriously.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.