Ballot Box: Palin’s ‘Crazy’ Move Might Work in Iowa

The Washington, D.C., know-it-alls say Sarah Palin is washed up. Out here in Iowa, Republicans are inviting her to dinner.

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We can’t gauge Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with conventional political measurements.

Her appeal with Iowa Republican caucus-goers is precisely what was on display late last week — an absolute thumb-nosing of establishment politics, conventional thinking, and on the day before the Fourth of July when cable television’s heavy-hitting lampooners were long gone for the long weekend.

Yes, at first blush, this announcement of her imminent resignation as governor, with its epic nonsequiturs and mom-unleashed-at-the -school-board-meeting quality, hand-delivers ammunition for Palin’s fleet of detractors

And as several journalists have noted already, there does seem to be a piece, perhaps a big one, missing from this story. Will she have to make an Appalachian-sized amendment to the story as her fellow GOP governor Mark Sanford did just recently?

If not, this may work for Palin.

What made Palin popular with Iowans was not her resume of experience in Alaska. Those who cheered her in Sioux City last fall, with the most vocal applause for a Republican I saw in Iowa in the 2008 presidential cycle, knew little about it. 

The D.C. boys with the Blackberrys tell us that Palin should have stayed in Alaska to finish her term. Then perhaps, as she is only 45, take a shot at the U.S. Senate. Build some credentials, burnish that resume.

That would put Palin on the same playing field as other politicians, and by that measure, she loses.

Palin is already a political figure too large for the office she holds. That speech was clumsy but what matters is how Iowa Republicans will view her now.

Will they hold it against Palin that she quit her job as Alaska governor to become a national advocate, a visible and likely effective one, for their values? It’s hard to think of someone as a quitter when you see them more on television and at party dinners and in other venues than you did before.

Sioux City Journal
Palin in Sioux City in 2008.
And, what do you know? Iowa Republicans are busy trying to convince the former vice presidential candidate to be the keynote speaker at the Ronald Reagan Dinner, what has become the party’s premier fundraising event and, according to Thomas Beaumont, “a popular and high-profile stop for would-be presidential candidates.” 

Then there’s this to consider: Many in the national media have this mistaken sense that Iowa Republicans are seeking a new identity, that they’ll reach out to moderates and carve out more widely palatable positions. Having been to two major GOP events in just the last 10 days in Iowa I get the distinct sense that the party is growing smaller, more insular, more angry — and that it is likely to double-down on a candidate like Palin. Damn the torpedoes and the media and conventional wisdom — and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who tried the other night in Des Moines, to no avail, to get rank-and-file Republicans to accept new demographics and dynamics of life in America.

Palin is exactly what many Republicans want. A time machine. We know that machine goes back, but whether there’s a switch on it for the future remains to be seen.



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