Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sarah Palin Keeps Talking 2012

Of all the questions Sarah Palin answered as she barnstormed the Iowa State Fair just a day before the Ames straw poll, exactly why she was there wasn’t one of them.

The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate spent more than an hour with a crush of reporters, wandering through cattle stalls and talking about the presidential primary. Instead of just protesting that the media was invading her vacation and taking the occasional jab at Mitt Romney, as she did on the East Coast leg of her One Nation bus tour, Palin took every chance to talk about her opponents and about the presidential bid she’s still dangling as a possibility.

When asked what her campaign would look like, she responded at length. “They are sick and tired of hearing and suffering through. We want new; we want conviction and passion and candidness,” she said, standing inside a crush of cameras with her husband, Todd.

And then she launched into her description of an ideal candidate — and basically described herself.

“That candidate’s not fearing so much what the interpretation is going to be when it comes to the comments and positions you are articulating, but just speaking from the heart, saying, ‘Here’s how I think we can turn the economy around, and here’s what I’ve done in the past to show you truly a foundation of where my beliefs come from of what works in a small town, in a state, in a big industry like oil and gas — what it is that can be done to turn the economy around,’” Palin said.



Though Palin repeatedly insisted she had done nothing more than accept an invitation to visit the fair, her eagerness to talk politics on the eve of the first real test of the 2012 campaign, just 30 miles away from the Iowa State University campus where the straw poll will take place made clear that even if she stays out of the race, she wants to remain a serious presence in it. When ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper appeared at her elbow with microphone pinned on his shirt, she answered three of his questions, and kept talking as other reporters chimed in.

If there’s any weariness among Iowa voters about Palin’s months-long “will-she-or-won’t-she” dance in which Friday was the latest tease, it wasn’t visible at the fair on Friday. As soon as people noticed her enter the agricultural pavilion to see the famous butter cow — and boy, did they notice — Palin was mobbed.

She took two hours to walk from that pavilion, past the food stalls about a hundred yards away, and back up to finally exit the fair. The mob grew so big that aides at one point directed her back the way they had come instead of pushing onward, fearing for her safety.


But asked whether she expected these people or anyone else to write her name in Saturday at Ames — as Rick Perry’s supporters are organizing to do for him — Palin just laughed, and went back to signing autographs.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn told Andrea Mitchell on Friday that he hasn’t seen any signs that Palin is actually planning to build a campaign that could win her the state’s caucuses. “We haven’t seen any evidence around the state of, you know, kind of making those contacts that you need in an organization-heavy state.”

“She’ll be back over the Labor Day weekend to talk to a tea party group, so maybe we’ll get some more clues at that point,” Strawn said.

Still, Strawn said, the rationale for Palin’s appearance was obvious: “She’s here because it’s the center of the political universe. There’s no question.”

But Palin did her best to make herself the center of the political universe, eagerly engaging with just about every candidate she’d compete against if she did get in —including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“Just because there may happen to be two women in the race,” Palin said, “that they would you know as Michele had put it once, get in the mud and engage in some catfighting that’s ridiculous. It’s kind of even a sexist notion to consider that two women would be kind of duking it out.”

She raised her fists and punched the air. “If I’m gonna duke it out, I’m gonna duke it out with the guys,” she said.

And Palin pointedly refused to choose between nominal Republican front-runner Mitt Romney and his soon-to-be main challenger: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“I don’t see that happening, that hypothetical, because you know very rarely is it ever ratcheted down to just two, so it’s a long process,” she said in response to a question from POLITICO. “Rick’s not in the race yet, and the debates with him in it haven’t occured yet, so that hypothetical won’t be answered now.”

But Perry, whose candidacy will be appealing to much of the same base as Palin would, earned a critique. Asked how his record contrasted with hers, Palin pointed to the structural weaknesses built into the Texas governor’s office — though she later denied that her comment was the veiled criticism they were immediately interpreted to be.

And when the Daily Caller wrote a story suggesting that she’d said she favored Romney, the Palin entourage was visibly angry. Todd Palin pulled the story up on his BlackBerry, and handed it to his wife — “those dang reporters!” she exclaimed. A few moments later, a Palin aide put the Caller reporter, Alex Pappas, on the phone with the former governor.

“So what you’re saying is that I said that I support Mitt Romney?” she asked Pappas. “You need to be clear, otherwise people really lose faith in the state of journalists today.”

Her contention: She said she supports ABO, or “anybody but Obama.”

Palin is leaving Iowa on Friday, she said, so she wouldn’t “step on anybody’s feet” during the straw poll on Saturday. But her itinerary for this next leg of Palin’s “One Nation” bus tour wasn’t immediately clear — picking up on the theme of her East Coast tour of American historical sites, Palin said Friday morning that she intends to visit presidential birthplaces. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman were born in nearby states.

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