Palin creates buzz but rivals bet she won’t run

Posted on May 30, 2011


By Byron York….”The bottom line is Sarah Palin is not going to run for  president,” says a Republican adviser close to front-runner Mitt Romney. “She’s  making money, she’s moved on, she’s kind of an entertainer rather than a  politician. She still has some sway with the grass roots, but she is not going  to run.”

“I don’t think she’s going to run,” says a Republican  close to Tim Pawlenty. “She has faded a lot in the last few months. I look at  what she’s doing now and say that she’s found a way to get back in the  story.”

Maybe these representatives of rival campaigns are  just spinning. But the fact is, some of the most serious people in the 2012  Republican race don’t believe Palin will run. While the press looks at the  former Alaska governor’s publicity operation, political pros look at her  campaign operation, or, more accurately, her lack of a campaign  operation.

“Watch what she has done,” says the Republican close  to Romney. “Has she contacted one major donor across the country about putting  together an organization? Has she talked to one member of the Republican  National Committee about working for a campaign, or one governor, or one former  governor about working for a campaign? The answer is no.”

Campaigns are filled with routine work. For example,  on Thursday, the Pawlenty team sent out a message headlined, “Governor Pawlenty  Unveils Florida Finance Team.” It’s not newsy, but it’s the kind of thing  presidential campaigns have to do. Palin’s not doing it. There are no Palin  campaign organizations in early primary and caucus states, or anywhere else, for  that matter.

Nevertheless, the political world is filled with  speculation about Palin’s intentions. Until recently, most Republican insiders  believed she would not run. Then, in short order, came four signs that, to some  observers, indicate that she will.

First, Palin reportedly has bought a house in Arizona,  from which she could travel the country more easily than her current home in  Alaska. Second, she plans a high-profile Memorial Day weekend campaign-style bus  tour. (Drudge Report headline: “IT’S ON: PALIN HITS TRAIL.”) Third, she has  cooperated in a new film biography made by a conservative director who plans a  showing next month in Iowa. And fourth, she has added a couple of people to her  staff.

Yes, all of those moves might ease the way for Palin  to run for president. But they also help Palin do exactly what she’s doing now.  Traveling around making paid speeches, promoting candidates, pushing books,  appearing on television — all those are easier with a house in the lower 48, an  even higher public profile than she has now, and a bigger staff. From that  perspective, Palin’s recent activities don’t say anything about her presidential  thinking. (Members of Palin’s tightly knit inner circle did not respond to my  inquiries.)

There’s no doubt Palin is popular. In a new Gallup  Poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Palin is a close  second, behind front-runner Romney and ahead of Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain,  Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. But while  Republican voters generally like Palin and agree with her conservative views,  they don’t necessarily think she should jump into the race.

“I know a lot of people who would be inclined to go to  a movie premiere, or a book signing, or go listen to her give a speech,” says a  veteran GOP politico in Iowa, “but I don’t know a lot of people who are saying  Sarah Palin needs to run.” The same is true in the other early states of New  Hampshire and South Carolina, where some key GOP operatives view her chances  with great skepticism.

It’s possible Palin is in fact running and believes  she can do so in a way that’s never been done before. Maybe she can. It’s  certainly been tried; in 2007, former Sen. Fred Thompson and a small group of  aides conceived of a campaign that would rely on Internet videos, social media  and lots of buzz to gain support, with less reliance on old-fashioned things  like shaking hands, begging for money and courting state party chairmen. It  didn’t work.

Of course, Palin is a far more ambitious politician  than Thompson. But there is a law of gravity in politics. In a long race, you  have to have an organizational foundation. Palin is fabulously successful at  what she’s doing now. But if she believes she can defy political gravity, she’ll  likely learn it can’t be done.

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