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“There’s nothing that unusual with what’s going on here,” Green said. “This is just a lot of people who’ve got an opinion about Sarah Palin feeding into the show who start to shout a lot about a conspiracy. I think a lot of people are shouting who don’t actually watch the show and don’t understand how it all works.”

Many of Bristol Palin’s supporters readily conceded she wasn’t the best dancer. But they admired her pluck and willingness to put herself on the line.

Gretchen Offord, a women’s crisis counselor from Shasta Lake, Calif., said she detested the condescension that was directed Palin’s way by many of the professional dancers and judges on the show.

“I tend to have sympathy for people who have the odds stacked against them,” she said.

Offord voted for Bristol. She doesn’t particularly like Sarah.

Susan Gonzalez, a 26-year-old teacher from Washington, D.C., said she and many of her friends became fans of Bristol as the season went along.

“There’s something about her that I think every girl in her 20s can relate to,” she said. “She’s very vulnerable, and watching her gain confidence over the course of the season was kind of interesting _ the fact that she’s not the best, and she knows she’s not the best, but every week she goes on and puts on a brave face.”

Monday was the first night Palin looked like she was enjoying herself, Gonzalez said. “She kind of seemed relieved that it was over,” she said.

She said she doesn’t support Palin’s mother, “and if the voting power behind Bristol says something about the voting power of the tea party, I think we have a lot to be afraid of in 2012.”

Stephanie Tompkins, a 23-year-old financial analyst from Dallas, said she voted for Palin to stick up for her when a lot of people were picking on her.

“I can relate to Bristol,” she said. “We’re pretty much the same age. She’s never done something like this before and I think it’s pretty brave for her to get up and do something like this when she’s been criticized.”

There’s politics, there’s sympathy and there’s also mischief.

Adam Tills, a 41-year-old website owner from the Minneapolis area, first supported Palin as part of a popular online campaign to mess with television competition programs by encouraging votes for the least talented performers. Then he thought the whole controversy over why Palin continued on in the show was so silly that it would be fun to see what happened if she actually won.

So he kept on voting for Bristol.

“I’d just love to see the world turned on its ear over this because that’s what everyone will be talking about for a week,” he said.

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