Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue: An American Life” is being pitched by her publisher as “one ordinary citizen’s extraordinary journey.” That’s about right. Palin is ordinary — remarkably, overwhelmingly, mind-numbingly ordinary.

Back in the day, it seemed as if she might be extraordinary. When I started writing about her in 2006, the year that Palin took on the good old boys of Alaskan Republican politics, she seemed intriguing. The story of a small-town mayor mounting a primary challenge to a sitting governor of her own party was appealing. Palin’s few months as governor quickly disabused anyone who was paying attention to the notion that she was a reformer. After wrangling a bit with the powerful oil lobby she soon embarked upon a career of cronyism and abuses of power. Had John McCain’s campaign bothered to vet Palin, she never would have been tapped to join the ticket. But McCain went with his gut and got sucker punched. Palin was precisely the wrong running mate for McCain. While the senator from Arizona was a maverick who sought to reach far beyond the boundaries of the GOP in hopes of actually winning the presidency, Palin had far more ordinary ambitions.

She was delighted to preach to the choir. Palin wanted to be the queen of the conservatives, and perhaps the matron of what remained of the Republican Party after George Bush and Dick Cheney were done with it. Palin has never had grand ideas or grand ambitions — a point reinforced frequently in her book. She has always been more than satisfied with petty squabbles inside the party and on its fringe.

Contrast Palin’s cloistered campaigning with the boisterousness of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a much more Reaganesque figure. Huckabee’s every bit as conservative as his partisan compatriot from Alaska. But he’s a big-tent man. And when he toured on behalf of his book “Do the Right Thing,” Huckabee appeared just about everywhere. He even did Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and went on MSNBC, where he sparred with brainy liberal Rachel Maddow. Notably, for all the current attention to Palin, it is Huckabee who maintains a solid lead among Republican voters when they are asked who they prefer as their 2012 nominee.


– John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine.

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