“I kind of feel a connection to that tough, gun-toting, pioneer feminism of women like Annie Oakley,” said Palin. “Maybe it’s that upbringing in Alaska. Maybe, too, it’s because later on today I’m doing a speech for the NRA and I’m getting in the groove.”…

“I’d like to remind people of another feminist tradition–kind of a Western feminism,” said Palin. “It’s influenced by the pioneering spirit of our foremothers who went in wagon trains across the wilderness and they settled in homesteads. And these were tough, independent pioneering mothers whose work was as valuable as any man’s on the frontier. And it’s no surprise that our Western states that gave women the vote, the right to vote, way before their East Coast sisters in a more genteel city, perhaps, got it right.

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When asked about the composition of Palin’s targets, a Palin aide who asked not to be named said it wasn’t on purpose—it was simply a coincidence that so many women are in the crosshairs. But whether her female-heavy roster of preferred and targeted candidates is inadvertent or by design, it highlights an increasingly obvious part of her political persona.

Palin is emerging not only as a standard-bearer for social conservatives but as a campaign trail Annie Oakley, a pioneering female pol who not only intends to flex her muscle to carry conservative women to office but also to shove more than a few Democratic women out of the way.

“No one before her was a conservative woman on the national scene who has made such a splash,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group dedicated to electing women who oppose abortion rights.

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As I listened to the speech, I was struck by how Palin’s positions are widely shared. She opposes the health care law — so does the public. She’s concerned about the federal deficit — so is the public (see question 10b). She supports the Arizona illegal immigration law — so does the public. She supports the right to life — and the public is moving toward her. She supports the Afghanistan surge and the current course in Iraq — both Obama administration policies…

Palin’s personality and sociocultural populism may hurt her in 2012 (though not necessarily in a GOP primary). They are irrelevant, however, to voters’ calculations in 2010. The Democrats can bash her all they want. The storm is still coming.

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Mitt Romney is cut from polished wood, and Newt Gingrich is origami folded from a thousand position papers, blotted with ugly scozzafava stains that may never come out. At this moment in time, Sarah Palin is the heart and soul of the Right. I can understand why many Republican voters might be reluctant to go into the next election with their hearts on their sleeves, but that’s the only way to win… and achieve the mandate necessary to do what needs to be done. If she formally declares for office, some of those reluctant Republican hearts will grow stout, and the next salt-encrusted poll from PPP might look quite a bit different.

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