She was voted mayor twice of Wasilla, getting 650 votes in 1996 and 909 votes in 1999. Her opponent was John Stein, a Christian, but apparently his Jewish sounding name was a campaign issue. Wasilla was 100% Christian. Wasilla is a smaller town than 95% of the towns that Americans now live in. Her success here is meaningless in determining how she would do in a national race or even a race in a normal size city.
She ran for Lieutenant Governor in the Republican Primary in 2002 and received 19,114 votes, 27%, losing to Loren Lehman who received 29% of the vote. Lehman is a civil engineer even more conservative than Palin.
She was appointed as the chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2003, but resigned within a year causing a scandal over Republican corruption.
In 2006, She won the Republican primary with 51,000 or 50% of the vote, but the incumbent Republican Governor only had an approval rating of 19%. She got 114,000 (48%) to become governor of Alaska. Republicans outnumbered Democrats in Alaska by 117,000 to 70,000 at the time, so this only proved that in a conservative Republican state, where Republicans outnumber Democrats better than 60-40%, she could win a Republican primary and not lose the general election.
She did get fabulous poll ratings in the 80's and 90's when she started her job as governor, but the socialist policy of taxing oil companies and sharing the wealth raised by it with all Alaskans was a big part of that.
Palin had been mayor of Wasilla for six years and Governor of Alaska for one and a half years, when John McCain selected her to run as his vice-presidential candidate. In the Time Magazine poll taken a week before the selection, McCain was behind by 2 points 44-42%. In a poll taken a week after the election (Sep 5-7) McCain was behind by 4 points, 49-45%. He lost the election, two months later by 7 points, 52.9-45.7. The selection of Sarah Palin did not help him at all, although, it may have been the Bush financial crisis that ultimately did him in.
Besides quitting in the only two statewide positions she ever held as Governor and Chair of the Alaskan Conservation Commission, the only thing that jumps out at you on her resume is the fact that she went to five different colleges to obtain her B.A. degree in Communications. This may indicate a restless spirit who likes to move around a lot.
It is hard to argue that she has been successful in politics. She has had only run one significant race, that was the Republican primary for Governor in 2006. Since the incumbent Murkowski only had a 19% approval rating, her only real competition came from John Binkley. Binkley was Chairman of Riverboat Discovery, a successful tour company and president of the El Dorado Gold Mine, a tourist
attraction. In 2005, he received an A.A. degree in airframe and powerplant maintenance technology. He had served in the state legislature from 1985-1990. In other words, she did not face real tough political pros in her only tough race.
How would she do in a campaign in the 30 or so states that have a Democratic majority? There is really no way of predicting based on her two statewide races that she ran in a conservative Republican state, in which she lost one and won one.
Palin's poll numbers have been dropping rapidly over the past year in Alaska. She faced a tough race for re-election. Staying as governor and getting re-elected would not have helped her political ambitions much. Traveling around the country and helping conservative politicians get elected is the smarter path to the White House. However, if she appears with politicians who get defeated around the country in 2010, even the hardcore Republicans will quickly desert her.
Because she believes that all America is like Wasilla, Palin will probably run inefficient and ineffective campaigns for the candidates she tries to help in 2010. The circus around Palin will probably continue for the next year and a half, but If the majority of candidates she supports get smashed, come 2011, we will be saying "Sarah Who?"