JIM LEHRER: And now to the Sarah Palin story: on the road again, promoting her memoir.
Judy Woodruff reports.
CROWD: Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!
JUDY WOODRUFF: A year after she drew larger crowds than John McCain as number two on his ticket, Sarah Palin is drawing crowds again, this time as she launches her book tour. People eager to catch a glimpse of the former Alaska governor lined up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early this morning for a book signing set for tonight.
WOMAN: She just represents everything that I believe in. She’s just real. She’s just like me and my buddy sitting at the table talking politics about how we think things should be.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For the next three weeks, Palin plans to visit at least 23 states, stopping in selected cities to promote “Going Rogue,” her new memoir.
Even at a bookstore in Washington, D.C., a city she’s not visiting, the first shipment of Palin books sold out quickly. Staffers were busy restocking more.
HOLLY KUEBLER, shopper: I’m really interested to learn more about her life, about some of the decisions that she has made recently, especially her deciding to run for vice president and what that entailed. And then I’m interested to know what she is planning and how that may ultimately affect what happens nationally.
MARTHA SWEARINGEN, Shopper: I’m very much interested in reading it. I don’t agree with her politics, but I think she’s a fascinating person.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But some in the store weren’t impressed.
A.J. CHARANIA, Shopper: It’s a very serious time. I would rather read more serious works on serious issues in terms of the economy or society.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite divided opinions, the book is having no trouble selling. High pre-order sales have put it in the number-one slot on Amazon.com for weeks.
SUSAN MOLINARI, (R-NY), former congresswoman: I think the — the perspective of Republicans after the campaign about her was a question mark.
What's next for Palin?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari says, while the party makes up its mind, Palin seems to be targeting people with her tour who might support her in another run for office.
SUSAN MOLINARI: When you hear that she's not going to the major metropolitan areas, but some of the more small-town red areas -- politically red -- that, you know, maybe she is, you know, trying to generate her sort of cadre of followers while she is selling a book, and advocating and testing out messages, and testing out what works and doesn't work moving forward.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which raises the question, what does Sarah Palin want to do next? Some conservatives say it should not be a run for the White House.
DAVID FRUM, former speechwriter for former President George W. Bush: I don't think she is at all qualified to be president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Others say she could be a contender. It all depends on what she wants.
Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard is the author of "The Persecution of Sarah Palin."
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, author, "The Persecution of Sarah Palin": I think she wants to continue to have a career in politics as someone who is influencing politics.
Whether that is something that she does from within a political office, I'm not even sure Sarah Palin knows at this point. Sarah Palin is an instinctual politician. She is extremely impulsive, at times appear reckless. And it also makes her very hard to pin down as a political figure. She can go from one political persona to the other.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That shifting persona could carry Palin anywhere from public office to a quiet life back in Alaska.
Fred Malek, former national finance chairman for the McCain campaign, spent time with Palin on the campaign trail. He says her decision to write a book doesn't answer the question whether she will run for president.
FRED MALEK: I have no idea whether she intends to run for office or not. I -- I -- I really have no idea. But you have to look at this through the prism of a mother of five, with a -- with -- with also a grandchild living at home, with mounting legal bills and a need to create a -- a -- a better life and a secure life for herself and her family.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Continetti agrees that money was a strong factor in the decision to write the book. Her advance was reportedly in the millions.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI: She had to pay for a lot of these legal bills rising from the ethical complaints that greeted her when she returned to Alaska. She had to pay them out of her own pocket. And while the Palins weren't poor, they weren't exactly rich either. Well, now she's rich.
Lashing out against McCain campaign
JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of the book's harshest words are reserved for McCain campaign senior staffers who Palin feels steered her wrong.
FRED MALEK: Look, she was not treated well as the campaign came to its final days and thereafter. There were people that were saying things about her that -- that were not right and, to my way of thinking, lacked chivalry, lacked honor, lacked integrity, and, in every conceivable way, were distasteful. And if she wants to kind of come back at some of that stuff, more power to her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, today, Senator McCain came to his staff's defense. He told Reuters, it's time to move on.
And then there's the news media. All week, Palin has splashed across TV. Her first big interview was with Oprah Winfrey.
SARAH PALIN: My dad's quote, I think it -- it sums it up better perhaps than I'm summing up. He said: "She's not retreating. She's reloading."
OPRAH WINFREY ": Reloading?
SARAH PALIN: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Barbara Walters also sat down with Palin on ABC.
BARBARA WALTERS: Will you play a major role?
SARAH PALIN: If people will have me, I will.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In every interview, she's asked about what Palin herself admits was a bad interview last year with CBS's Katie Couric.
KATIE COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point, specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.
SARAH PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I will bring them to you.
My fault, my bad that I answered the way that I answered.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Palin defenders say the media continues its unfair treatment of her in this week's "Newsweek," where she's pictured on the cover in running shorts. Palin called it sexist on her Facebook page.
But conservative David Frum says, she has brought it on herself.
DAVID FRUM: This is a woman who has got into a position of leadership by sending very powerful sexual signals. And we see that in the way that men like her much more than women do.
Reimagining the GOP
JUDY WOODRUFF: Palin's reentry comes as the GOP starts to recover from the body blow it took in last year's elections.
But Susan Molinari says Palin needs to move beyond the party's base.
SUSAN MOLINARI: Neither political party gets to be the majority if all we do is -- is keep that tent very small.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Matthew Continetti, a Palin fan, agrees.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI: And the central thing she would do that I think if she wanted a future in elective office is to embrace a message that doesn't necessarily -- it's not directed toward the base of the Republican Party, but it's directed at the independent voters, who determine elections.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred Malek, another fan, believes Palin can be a catalyst for a Republican comeback.
FRED MALEK: I think, for us to be a winning party on the national level, we have to be big enough to encompass Sarah Palin on the right, to Olympia Snowe, the moderate, and everybody in between.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But divisions persist. David Frum says Palin is hobbled by her focus on the past.
DAVID FRUM: There is a thinness of skin, and an anger, and a vindictiveness that is very dangerous.
I mean, the question I look to in a Republican president is, do you have that kind of resources to really hold the line when things get tough, and not just to talk tough, but to be tough, and not just to punch back, but actually to have the ability to keep going without punching back, while restraining yourself and your emotions?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Regardless, the manager of one Washington bookstore does not expect the hype over the Palin book to last long.
BOOKSTORE MANAGER: My instinct tells me that -- that this -- this will sort of flame hot and burn out quickly. I think we will move on to the next thing, you know, whoever the next guest on "Oprah" is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Maybe. But Palin's shown a knack for attracting attention that, whether she runs for office or not, could keep her a figure of interest for a long time to come.