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Sarah Palin in 2012: Don't Bet on Her -- Either Way

3 years ago
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Will Sarah Palin run for president in 2012?

That's probably the question I hear most from non-politicos. And members of the politerati are constantly considering it -- as they pine for a Palin presidential campaign. After all, for political journalists, a Palin bid would be manna from heaven: drama, personality, ideological debate, cultural warfare, and a flood of website traffic. So this week, the political media was atwitter about the latest filings that showed Palin's political action committee had raised nearly a million George Washingtons (that is, $865,815) in the second quarter of this year. She had not-too-generously devoted only $87,500 to donations to GOP candidates. Instead, she used most of her money to cover her travel and the PAC's other costs. But at June's end, she had about $1 million left in the bank.

Actually, this is not a large amount in terms of national politics -- real players on both sides of the aisle are trying to raise tens of millions of dollars to affect the congressional elections -- but it did provide pundits reason to cogitate about, ahhhhh, a Palin presidential campaign. The Guardian declared her mighty war chest suggested "gathering momentum for a run at the White House in 2012." The New York Daily News noted her PAC filings hint Palin "may be prepping 2012 campaign." Reuters reported her fundraising was "fueling speculation the former vice presidential nominee could be readying a 2012 White House bid."

Notice the use of the conditional. That's because no one knows what she's going to do, perhaps not even Palin herself.

It's easier to envision Palin having already decided against a run than it is to picture her at this time resolving to go for it. Can a politician who quit her job as Alaska governor and who polls so poorly seriously view herself as White House material? Oh, maybe so. Throughout U.S. history, pols with no shot at winning the presidency have been unable to resist this temptation. There's no telling how Palin assesses herself and her odds.

But in many cases, those no-chance candidates had a good reason for running: a decent performance can elevate the status of a long-shot candidate. Think Jesse Jackson. Or Ron Paul. With a hardy campaign for the presidency, a loser can still wind up the head of his or her political wing -- and become a real mover and shaker.

Palin already is that. She's the queen of the Tea Party. She's wields major-league clout within the GOP. Moreover, she has what few politicians possess: the ability to get people to talk about her whenever she wants. It's already a cliche: She's not a politician; she's a political celebrity -- Facebooking, tweeting,and Foxing herself into the public square whenever the whim strikes. (Michelle Cottle breaks this down well in the latest New Republic, but the piece is behind the pay wall.) So as Palin ponders 2012, she has more at stake than, say, Newt Gingrich, who, once again, is signaling that he just might consider offering himself as a presidential candidate. (One word: ha!) Gingrich risks nothing in running; Palin would be putting her Palin-ness in jeopardy,

Should Palin lose, she would imperil her standing as the Lady Gaga of the right. (I mean that as a compliment; each one is an innovator in her field.) Sure, a defeated Palin would still command plenty of attention (soap operas are hard to turn off) and retain her marketability (out this week: "Going Rogue: Part VII"). But she would be damaged -- or diminished -- goods. (Perhaps I should say further diminished.)

At this point, ambiguity is her friend. The will-she-or-won't-she tease draws notice and keeps Juneau's most famous quitter in the center of the political universe. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder has provided a smart rundown of what Palin has and hasn't done that would be relevant for 2012. For instance, in the hasn't-done category, she hasn't assembled strategists, aides, consultants and fundraisers to (a) advise her or (b) start pulling together a campaign infrastructure. Her inner circle is ridiculously small for a national pol -- if she even has a circle outside her family and a few friends. Certainly, Palin has time before she needs to recruit such a staff, but not so much, though it's not difficult to imagine Palin defying convention and taking her own damn time to say yes . . . or no.

There's no incentive for Palin to declare her intentions any sooner than is absolutely necessary. If she's leaning toward a race, she's better off not putting herself more directly in the crossfire. Consider this: She has yet to tell us how she would handle the BP oil spill if she were president. Would she want to say so? Or discuss (say, with Katie Couric) what she would specifically do to create millions of new jobs in the United States? Right now, she is not obligated to answer any question she does not care to field. There's a responsibility that comes with being a near-candidate -- and it can be limiting.

And if Palin has already told herself, hell no, she should keep that a secret, too. Why give anyone a reason to ignore her? Without the threat of a presidential run, she'd be shooting blanks.

Ultimately, she's probably merely waiting to see what develops -- with the Republican Party, with her own family (oy!) and with the world. (If Russia were to invade Alaska, would that help or hurt a potential Palin bid?) But Palin-watchers -- a group that includes mostly everyone -- will have to be patient. Her subsequent PAC filings are unlikely to yield true clues. Her erratic interventions in the national political discourse are unlikely to reveal future plans. That is, until she issues an explicit declaration -- or tweet. Before those 140 characters arrive, political prognosticators shouldn't bother to apply logic in trying to suss out her intentions. Remember her ill-explained retreat from the governor's office. This woman is a wild card. Don't bet on her -- either way.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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trb2244

According to her own book, she did not quit so much as get sued out of office by a new law put in place by Alaskan Democrats looking for a little revenge. Any public figure in Alaska can be sued for whatever a citizen thinks is improper, and his/her defense is at personal expense, no matter how stupid the charge may be or how ludicrous the issue. She believed (I think correctly) that she might as well let her Lt. Governor run the state while she sorted out all the stupid suits. That's what she did. Naturally the national media said she was under fire for improprieties, and quitting under pressure. Would you expect a writer like Corn to play it any other way?

July 15 2010 at 9:42 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
danielbarnes76

What will her campaign slogan be? "Drill,Baby Drill"? She is a waste of air.

July 15 2010 at 6:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
andrc657

Sarah Palin is an attractive lady with a lovely family and a great story. She needs to distance herself from FOX NEWS and do interviews with mainstream reporters to lay out her positions. Otherwise she will just be a pretty face among a group of boring middle aged white guys in the republican party who also have higher ambitions.

July 15 2010 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
exitar01

Tea Party - Bah! There is no Tea Party! It is only the right/conservative/ republican party. If there was ever a Tea Party it died long ago when current republicans began putting in there two cents. If Palin is the Tea Party darling - remember she ran for VP as a republican - then the real Tea Party is dead!

July 15 2010 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
John

If Barack Obama can become president while serving a year and a half in the senate, then Sarah Palin can run for president having served as governor. She is the subject of scrutiny for so many things she allegedly doesn't know, and yet she's no worse than the guy in the White House with a monster "you're kidding me" agenda. His poll numbers are so far down that a re-election bid seems unlikely. I don't care how well he speaks. He can't fool the people twice. Palin is genuine, relates to people, speaks very well despite the assertions of people who think the opposite (I think they're just biased). If she goes for it, I think she will probably do very well.

July 15 2010 at 6:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bxmobster1

She is awsome!!!!! PALIN2012!!!!!!!!!

July 14 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
harolddundee

The problem for Sarah Palin in 2012? Sarah Palin.

July 14 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

...being on the oil and gas commission; creating an office to protect the oil pipeline to Seward; working on the clean gas pipeline between Alaska, Canada and the US maybe she should be head of the Dpt of Energy.

July 14 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Cheryl

Even her own party thought she was very uneducated. Get "Game Change" from the library. The authors of that book interviewed the behind the scenes people running each of the campaigns - Republican and Democrat. Toward the end of the book, there's a chapter on the McCain campaign and it's amazing how uneducated Palin is regarding our world and U.S. history. They had cram sessions with her to smarten her up. That is why you never saw her on Meet the Press or any other political shows. She couldn't even remember Biden's name, which is why they told her to ask him if she could call him Joe at the debate. Interesting reading and gives details of behind the scenes of every campaign. God help us if Palin ever gets in office.

July 14 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
bthered

Sarah has found her nitch....She made something like 12 Mil. last year. She would have to take a big cut in pay if she became President. Hang in there Baby.."Steal-Baby-Steal"

July 14 2010 at 7:47 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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