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RealityPolitik: Why Sarah Palin (and Donald Trump) Will Never Beat Obama

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SARAH PALIN MOVIE UNDEFEATED AMC NATIONAL RELEASE
AP File

Sarah Palin, like Paris Hilton before her, has been road-tripping around America, seeing the sights, mingling with the masses and saying amusingly ignorant things to the cameras.

Just because those lenses were attached to "news" cameras didn't make Palin's bus tour any less of a reality-TV show -- she simply transcended the television trappings of her self-mythologizing Sarah Palin's Alaska series and turned all of America into her set. (Her recently wrapped tour of historical sites will continue later this summer across the West Coast, Iowa and South Carolina.)

But it's a losing gambit if she ever really wants to be president. As much as Palin purports to represent the "real America," real Americans want a cinematic leader, not a reality-TV celeb.

Palin knows it, too, which is why her micro-managed not-quite-campaign helped put together a pro-Palin documentary -- epically (and erroneously) titled The Undefeated -- to make her life seem more movie-like and perhaps avoid The Donald's recent downfall.

Trump, of course, rose to the poll tops with a series of increasingly unhinged Tea Party-pandering attacks on the president, only to plummet after Obama delivered a one-two punch, ruthlessly mocking Trump's Celebrity Apprentice bona fides at the White House Correspondents Dinner before staging the most movie-like moment of his presidency the next night. How could Trump's birth certificate demands, at best a TV cliffhanger, possibly compete with Obama's blockbuster takedown of supervillain Osama bin Laden?

The media briefly turned its lenses back to Trump when he joined Palin for a "pizza summit." It was just like that time Survivor's Boston Rob was on The Amazing Race. He lost -- and these two will fare no better.

Sure, Americans enjoy the combativeness of their reality TV-inspired tactics -- using outrageous statements, petty feuds and personal celebrity rather than actual accomplishments. But despite their ability to dominate news cycles -- not to mention use the infamously inaccurate editing of their reality shows to shape their public images -- the four-times bankrupt businessman and Alaskan half-term governor just don't have the movie-star moxie of our recent bigger-than-life American presidents.

Perhaps the birther movement's incredulity is partly because of how much Obama's life story reads like a screenplay: hippie mother and Kenyan father; exotic upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia; president of the Harvard Law Review before hitting the mean streets of Chicago to become a community organizer; upstart campaign attracting stadium-sized crowds and defeating the Clinton machine and a Republican war hero; even his grandmother, who raised him, dying two days before he becomes America's first black president. It's almost too widescreen.

The Bushes are a political dynasty filled with intrigue and scandal, from Grandpa Prescott's alleged dealings with Nazi Germany to war hero George the Elder running the CIA and G-Dub rising from an alcoholic washout to declare war against terror while standing astride the rubble of the Twin Towers. Whether you agree with their politics or not, the family's history is epic.

John McCain may have lost, but at least he was the P.O.W. son of a four-star navy admiral -- the stuff of Hollywood dreams. Bill Clinton was a chubby abused kid from a broken home who became the most powerful man in the world -- and the capper, of course, is that he was born in a freaking town called Hope. Then there's Reagan, who was not only a real movie star, but brought that skill-set to the political sphere, making speeches that read like screenplays: "Mister Gorbachev, Tear! Down! This! Wall!"

When Palin finally does enter the race, she stands a good chance at getting the nomination thanks to a weak Republican field and her expert use of, ahem, trumped-up reality-style melodrama. But when voters head to the polls, there's simply no way that they'll select Snooki when they can re-elect Denzel.

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