Sarah Palin: America's Sweetheart No More?

The autobiography even suggests a mean streak. When then-boyfriend Todd told his friends that Sarah didn’t know how to kiss, Palin’s judgment was as harsh as it was swift: she “learned a lesson about guys that day: even the good ones can act like jerks.” As if women never gossip about their mates’ sexual prowess!

Throughout the year Palin appeared at endless Tea Party rallies around the country. On February 6, 2010, Palin keynoted the inaugural Tea Party convention in Nashville, TN, cementing her position as the charismatic leader for the burgeoning movement.

But in mid-2010, the apparently unstoppable train suddenly took a pro-feminist turn.

During a May 15 speech at a Susan B. Anthony conference, Palin unveiled the term “Mama Grizzly,” and invoked the words "feminism" and "feminist" no less than a dozen times. This provoked predictable attacks from the NOW blowhards -- and raised conservative eyebrows as well.

Palin’s response was to accuse her critics, including her female detractors, of chauvinism -- a stance that began to wear thin in the eyes of many.

The cracks in Mrs. Palin’s formidable reputation began to show themselves in the Gallup poll taken after the November 2 elections. While she garnered a steady 40% favorability rating, for the first time ever her unfavorable numbers spiked to 52%.

Perhaps the decisive turning point, though, was the day that Palin decided to take on Barbara Bush. First ladies occupy a revered spot in the American iconography, but apparently Palin was too tone-deaf to understand this. When the former first lady remarked that Palin might prefer to stay in Alaska rather than throw herself in the hurly-burly of national politics, Palin rebuked Mrs. Bush -- and her family -- as a group of elite “blue bloods.”

Wrong move, Mrs. Palin.

Then came her “blood libel” gaffe on January 12. And just last month, Palin insinuated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was “Neanderthal.”

Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald has ridiculed the “feminist strain” of the Mama Grizzlies and notes that Palin “is living up to the most skeptical assessment of her.” But the real reason for her plummeting support is that many Americans are confused about who Sarah Palin is and what she really stands for.

Is Mrs. Palin the tireless spokesperson for a recrudescent silent majority? Is she a have-it-all, do-it-all Super Mom? A dazzling, but ephemeral Media Maven?

Or is she an old-school, quota-embracing, male-bashing feminist who also happens to be pro-life? Is she a shake-and-bake liberal whose political resumé includes support for the ill-fated bridge to nowhere and a record-breaking $6.6 billion state operating budget in 2007?

Until Mrs. Palin takes steps to reconcile these apparent contradictions, these questions will continue to be grist for the political mill.