The judge explains the "Bristol Phenomenon" behind Palin's survival despite low scores

By Michele Stueven and Dahvi Shira
Updated November 11, 2010 01:40 PM
Axelle Woussen/Bauer Griffin, Bob D'Amico/ABC

It’s no secret that Bristol Palin isn’t the best dancer.

Week after week, Palin, 20, has landed at the bottom of the Dancing with the Stars leader board. And, week after week, she is saved from elimination.

So if it’s not her moves that keep her in the competition, what is the secret ingredient to Palin’s performances that has America voting for her?

“Bristol Palin is somebody that I think most of Middle America and regular people can relate to,” Dancing judge Carrie Ann Inaba tells PEOPLE. “A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I want to be on Dancing with the Stars. Why don’t they have a regular-people version?’ And I feel like that’s what Bristol Palin is. She’s a regular girl with normal problems and normal issues, and I think a lot of people look at her and see themselves.”

Adds Inaba, “I think the Bristol Palin phenomenon is amazing. I feel like she’s very relatable to the average person. She’s non-pretentious, very relaxed, and sort of non-affected by anything in this dance competition right next to all these amazing celebrities.”

Although she admits Palin’s performances are “not spectacular,” Inaba won’t be too surprised if America’s votes send her through the semi-finals and into the season finale on Nov. 23.

“She might be in our finals,” Inaba says. “Wow.”