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Sarah Palin as Iowa GOP Headliner -- Passionate, Angry and Cryptic

3 years ago
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DES MOINES, Iowa – Let the word go forth: Sarah Palin is definitely running – against Vanity Fair profile writers, the "lame-stream media," political experts who underestimated her hand-picked Senate primary candidates and Republican "elites" who still doubt that Christine O'Donnell can win Delaware in November.
Palin's Friday night speech to 1,500 GOP faithful paying $100 a head at the Iowa party's annual Ronald Reagan fund-raising dinner provided few clues about her 2012 political intentions, but it underscored how much fun she intends to have toying with her decision about seeking the presidency.
The former Alaska governor and the Republican Party's leading incendiary came to Iowa with an elaborate joke about her husband Todd urging her to run on the hotel treadmill rather than jogging outside in the Iowa sunlight. She said that she pressed her husband for an explanation and he said, "If anybody spots you in tennis shoes, the headline is going to be – Vanity Fair, they're going to say – 'Palin in Iowa Decides to Run.'"

More than anyone in the cheaper-by-the-dozen GOP field of White House dreamers, Palin can take her time mulling her 2012 decision since she has no worries about winning name recognition or attracting press attention if she delays. She does not have to make speeches in high school gyms in Keokuk when she has all of Fox News channeling her every thought. Palin, in fact, was probably sincere when she stressed that the election that matters is this November: "We can't wait until 2012 to get our country back on the right track -- we need to start now by electing strong leaders who aren't afraid to shake it up."
Four years ago to the day, a fledgling Illinois senator named Barack Obama provided the first whiffs that he might transform the 2008 presidential race when he beguiled 3,000 Iowa Democrats at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual outdoor steak fry. There were no overt statements from Obama beyond a coy, "I'm going to have to come back to Iowa a lot," but one could sense his political potential among Democrats by staring at the rapt faces in the audience – a crowd scene that looked like it was lifted from a 1940s Frank Capra movie.
It is unfair to judge Palin by this standard, since it would have been difficult for even a reincarnated Pericles (or Ronald Reagan) to shine in the cavernous convention center ballroom, the site of GOP dinner. What came through more than anything in Palin's speech was her simmering anger over the way candidates like O'Donnell and Joe Miller, who upended GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have been belittled. "We can't blow it, GOP," Palin declared. "But we won't wait for that political playbook to be handed to us from on high from the political elites."
For all the intriguing parallels between Palin and the 2006 model of Barack Obama, there is also a cosmic difference – their respective public images. A national Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this month found that Palin had an upside-down approval rating, with only 31 percent of registered voters viewing her favorably and 50 percent giving her a thumbs-down. In contrast, the Quinnipiac poll found that Obama received a 41-to-14 favorable-to-unfavorable score from the voters in February 2007.
Polls are fluid -- and Palin, for all the raw emotions she arouses in friends and foes alike, has only been a national figure for two years. She remains popular among Republicans, although independents (who can vote in early presidential primaries in states like New Hampshire) viewed her negatively by a better than two-to-one margin in the Quinnipiac survey. While attitudes of Republican primary (and caucus) voters can be mercurial, it is a rare political party (see George McGovern) that is willing to nominate a presidential candidate who has been rejected in advance by all but passionate partisans.
Talking with Iowa Republicans during the cocktail hour before the dinner, I did pick up a whiff of ambivalence about Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate. Some of it was old-fashioned, such as the comment by Ron Siedelmann, the GOP chairman in tiny Audubon County, who said, "The question is whether the country is ready for a woman president. It's time" – a long pause – "I guess."
Cheryl Pederson, a small business owner from Des Moines who supported Mitt Romney last time around, stressed, "I want to win. I know Sarah Palin's strengths. But I don't know if she can appeal to independents." Mark Chelgren, a state senate candidate from Ottumwa, gushed about Palin even as he was expressing doubts about her driving ambition. "We've gone too long with fake people running the country," he said. "She just does what she wants – and has fun doing it. But I don't think she's running."
A little-noticed change in Republican Party rules for the 2012 presidential season may play a role in shaping Palin's ultimate decision.
Palin's most likely path to the nomination would depend on sweeping the Iowa caucuses (made-to-order for a high intensity candidate in a multi-candidate field), surviving a probable setback in New Hampshire (those pesky independent voters) and then roaring back to win the all-important South Carolina primary (the Kingmaker State whose likely next governor, Nikki Haley, was one of the first Mama Grizzlies). After that, Palin would have a serious shot at sweeping a series of major state (California, Texas, New York) winner-take-all primaries or winner-take-all by congressional district, even though she probably could never hit 50 percent in a contested race.
But that theory exploded when the Republican National Committee recently voted to switch to proportional representation (the system that was used by the Democrats during the protracted Obama-versus-Hillary Clinton battle) for all primaries held during the first two months of the 2012 season. What that means is that it will very difficult for a divisive candidate like Palin to sweep the table before the party establishment (buffeted though it may have been recently) can regroup.
If there has been any rule governing politics for the last two years, it is never underestimate Sarah Palin. I saw that principle in action when I spoke with one of my Palin skeptics, Ron Siedelmann, immediately after the speech.
Siedelmann, who had supported Mike Huckabee in the 2008 caucuses, was a man transformed. "Sarah Palin would make a pretty good president," he said with conviction in his voice that grew with every sentence. "To me, she seemed like she's really down to earth. It's the first time that I ever sat down and listened to her. I think she'd make a damn good president."

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66 Comments

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Richard Oetinger

I think Joe the plumber should run.

September 19 2010 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wendy

So, "it's time for a woman president, I guess". Better than guessing, they need to come up with an alternative if they don't like Sarah. How about Michelle Bauchman??? Geez, guys, try thinking outside of the box for a change! You have very few appealing aspects for 2012, so the GOP needs to get their collective azzez in gear (& quickly)!

September 18 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
buppahxsci

The negative image of the United States that George W. Bush helped create will be paled in compaison to what a Palin presidency would likely do. Character counts, and the fact that Sarah Palin left her Governship in Alaska in order to build up a personal fortune, and to avoid those who were "after her" in Alasks, does not bode well for the lady as someone who can be trusted to honor commitments. So far, MS Palin has been running on the basis of the present inept Administration of President Obama. The lady seems to only offer generalities regarding what she would actually do if elected President. All Palin seems to offer is: "Less govermnet, and lower taxes;" these items are like motherhood, and apple pie a la mode; where is the beef, lady, where is the beef?

September 18 2010 at 8:59 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
vjohn10152

sarah palin, you need to get a job

September 18 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vjohn10152

sarah palin, you need to get a job

September 18 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
thanxinc

I could care less whether Mrs. Palin is a woman or not. I will not vote for a president just because she is a woman. No political party will allow a radical to run for President. Corporations will pick who they can manipulate...and the rest of us will be stuck with our ethics and morals and nothing to eat.

September 18 2010 at 7:52 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Sheryl

I DO NOT LIKE SARAH PALIN.

September 18 2010 at 7:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
godabarb

Hopefully, we have leaned from Obam and our current disaster... there are folks who can make campaign speeches and get the crowds on their feet... that doesnt mean a thing as far as their experience or lack thereof in rtunning a business, requiring integrity, and being able to handle those in their charge. Ms Palin quit on her Alaskan followers, seems to have no control over her family environment and just likes to hear herself. spoken as a person embarrassed because I was sucked into voting for obama - just awful

September 18 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
sadieloo

Where are this womans children? She is always about somewhere.

September 18 2010 at 7:18 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
dmgg711

I heartily wish Sarah Palin would run for President. It would be a shoo in for Pesident's Obama's second term. Go Palin!

September 18 2010 at 7:13 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dmgg711's comment
Wendy

dmgg711: No way! The American people have awakened from a deep hibernation and are as angry as the bears. WE won't have another 4 years of Obama. We can't afford him.

September 18 2010 at 9:50 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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