Monday, 22 August 2011

Sarah Palin Soon to Join GOP Presidential Race?

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Chances are it has already played at a theater near you, though you may not have noticed. The Undefeated, the Sarah Plain bio-pic,  has not been a box office success, grossing only $175,000, according to "Washington Whispers," a political column in U.S. News and World Report. A few dozen have seen it in Iowa, a state Palin has visited a lot lately, just to sort of, you know, reconnect with the grassroots in America's heartland.  But the documentary could still be useful as means of introducing the former Alaska Governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate to voters if, as appears likely, she has decided to run for President. On the other hand, if there are any Americans still unaware of Sarah Palin, they are probably living without electricity or portable radios in areas so rural and remote that the mail can't reach them with the videos anyway.

After all this time and all her media exposure, pundits are still reading the tea leaves and perhaps even studying the entrails of owls in trying to determine the political intentions of the inscrutable Palin. She is like the woman in a once ubiquitous TV ad for a product called Lady Clairol. "Does she or doesn't she?" the narrator asked a few dozen times each day, inviting viewers to guess whether the lovely hue and texture of the lady's hair was the gift of Mother Nature or Lady Clairol. "Only her hairdresser knows for sure."

And so it is with Sara Palin. "Does she or doesn't she" intend to run for President? Only Lady Sarah knows for sure.

But a lot of people are making what appear to be informed guesses that "Mama Grizzly" is already making bear tracks toward the starting gate and a months-long drive toward the opening event in the 2012 presidential nominating process, the caucuses in, coincidentally — the great state of Iowa. She hasn't been spending all that time there to check out hog prices and corn futures.

"We're confident she'll run, and we've worked to build that really strong grassroots base that you have to build for a candidate to be successful just in case she does," Peter Singleton, the Iowa "Organize4Palin" representative, told "Washington Whispers." And 250,000 copies of the DVD version of The Undefeated are scheduled for release in Wal-Mart and other stores. Director Steve Bannon, who bankrolled the making of the film, has also lined up a Pay-per-view TV showing. The documentary chronicles Palin's two-and-a-half years as Alaska's Governor, including her fight over ethics conflicts in state government, her battle with Exxon, and the negotiations leading to the construction of the state's largest gas pipeline project. Palin already released a campaign-style video at the Iowa State Fair, adding to speculation that she is preparing to run. 

Palin no doubt has been enjoying the national spotlight that has followed her since John McCain chose her as his running mate three years ago this summer. She appears to have a celebrity-sized ego, but it seems unlikely she has been doing all this just to be a movie star. Karl Rove, the political strategist behind George W. Bush's rise to power, believes Palin will be in the race by Labor Day.

"(She) has a schedule next week that looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity." Rove commented Saturday on Fox News. On September 3, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, Palin will be the keynote speaker at the Tea Party of America's "Restoring America" event in (guess where) Iowa. The event has been moved from Waukee to Indianola, Iowa to accommodate a larger crowd, political columnist Byron York reported.

"This is her last chance," Rove said. "She either gets in or gets out. I think she gets in."  Her celebrity status will compensate for her late start behind other candidates who have been campaigning for months and have organizations in place in key caucus and primary states, he commented, adding, "If you're Sarah Palin, you just show up and the money comes and the organization comes and the people come."

But Palin's image — a feisty conservative woman, strong on family values and unafraid of "going rogue" against party establishment figures — so closely resembles that of Michele Bachmann, who has been campaigning heavily in Iowa and other key states, that Bachmann may have preempted Palin both in substance and style. It will be interesting to see what distinctions they might draw in their rival candidacies. Bachmann was clearly anticipating competition from Palin at the end of June, when she was asked about reports of tension between her and the former Alaska Governor.

"They want to see two girls come together and have a mud wrestling fight, and I am not going to give that to them," Bachmann told a voter in South Carolina.  

While both candidates are popular with the Tea Party movement and consistently preach the conservative gospel of low taxes and less government, neither has indicated a desire to redirect U.S. foreign policy away from nation-building and military interventions in the absence of threats to our national security. Neither has spoken of shrinking the vast network of American military bases throughout the world or of disentangling the United States from military commitments and alliances that threaten to drag us into otherwise avoidable wars. Both have been enthusiastic supporters of our military presence in the Middle East and insist on unwavering support for Israel.

On the lighter side, Palin's candidacy will likely boost ratings for NBC's Saturday Night Live, where Tina Fey's caricatures of the former Governor will no doubt once again delight TV audiences. And the comedienne will have plenty of material for her act.