The Tea Party wave that swept Republicans to a U.S. House majority may also be shielding Bristol Palin from elimination on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Palin, the daughter of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, survived a seventh week on the Walt Disney Co. network’s show Nov. 2, the night Republicans gained at least 60 House seats. The 20-year-old was saved by viewers’ votes after her Viennese waltz received the judges’ worst score. Ex-Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox got the hook, based on the lowest combined tally.
“There’s a strong popular movement behind Sarah Palin at the moment and she’s receiving a lot of support from the Tea Party,” Conrad Green, executive producer of the program, said in an interview. “It’s entirely possible some of those people are behind Bristol for political reasons.”
“Dancing With the Stars,” ABC’s most-watched show, pairs celebrities with professional dancers in weekly elimination rounds that weigh the public’s votes and judges’ scores equally. The program, airing Monday and Tuesday nights in the U.S., consists of a performance night and a results night. The format allows weaker participants with a fan base to advance.
“As we know, the Tea Party can get out the vote,” said Brad Adgate, research director at New York advertising company Horizon Media Inc. “You’ve got to suspect there is a lot of grass-roots support pulling her up from the bottom rung.”
“Dancing With the Stars” drew 19.9 million viewers to its Nov. 1 show, topping the 14.5 million who watched the San Francisco Giants win baseball’s World Series, Adgate said, citing Nielsen Co. data. The show’s audience is 70 percent female with a median age of 57, he said. Season to date, it’s the most-watched program on any network, Nielsen data show.
Bristol Palin first received public attention for her teenage pregnancy during the 2008 presidential campaign, when her mother was Republican John McCain’s running mate. She has since advised teens to think twice before having sex. Palin has discussed the contradiction between those views and the suggestive nature of some dance numbers.
“I go around and I talk about abstinence, and then I’m out here in my underwear doing a dance about sex and stuff,” Palin said during the show’s fourth week. For the rumba that week, with her parents in the audience, she dressed in a black-sequined leotard with a loose white-sequined blouse, and pulled partner Mark Ballas’s shirt off over his head.
The following week, dressed as a gorilla, Palin received the lowest score on the judges’ leader board after forgetting a few steps of a jive to The Monkees’ signature tune. After the audience vote, former “Brady Bunch” mom Florence Henderson was booted.
Palin was rehearsing and unavailable for an interview, Amy Astley, a show publicist, said in an e-mail.
Sarah Palin, who resigned as governor in July 2009, has attended at least two of the shows and dubbed her daughter “the Pistol” -- a nickname that’s been adopted by co-host Tom Bergeron. On election night on Fox News, she broke away from the political talk for a moment to savor Bristol’s advance.
“Bristol Palin is safe, now I can concentrate on these other votes,” Sarah Palin said.
The elder Palin campaigned for victorious Republican candidates including Senators-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida, helping to raise her profile as the most visible leader of the conservative Tea Party movement.
Contestants, now down to five, include singer Brandy Norwood, actress Jennifer Grey, Disney Channel star Kyle Massey and former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.
Bristol Palin has improved each week and has “human qualities” that make people want to vote for her, executive producer Green said. The show doesn’t collect detailed information on voters and doesn’t release figures, he said.
“We’ll see what happens after the election,” Green said. “If her vote trails off, that would be telling.”