Sarah Palin has been making news lately. In fact, she’s been making a lot of news, and not in her normal fashion. For the past couple of years, we’ve all been dragged through the Palin’s lives. People watched the reality show. They voted for Bristol on “Dancing With The Stars.” Even I read the Men’s Journal interview with Todd. Sarah herself has offered all her views at any event for one hundred thousand dollars. She even appears on FOXNews so regularly that they built a studio in her house. Recently things have changed a bit. Now Palin is on the road.
The “One Nation” bus tour sent sparks flying through the political arena. What is she doing? Is this a prelude to a presidential bid? Why won’t she tell us? There are a few interesting things about this tour that may provide a glimpse at the future. First is her treatment of the media. People following Palin have complained about the lack of information they are getting. There are no public schedules, no real information at all in fact. Palin is not hiding her disdain for the mainstream media. She did do an interview with Greta Van Susteran. Otherwise, she’s basically told the media to screw off. Why are they surprised? With no information coming from the bus tour, there is still plenty of news coverage. It’s like the media is saying McDonald’s should be delivering cheesburgers to them even though they go through the drive-thru daily. All the while Sarah Palin is getting all the media coverage she could want and reinforcing her image as an outsider or does things her way.
She continued to enhance that image breaking unspoken party rules. She rolled into New Hampshire on the same day that Mitt Romney was going to officially announce his campaign. The Romney event was staged from start to finish, and all the good details were leaked to the press. It was a classic political event. Everything Palin is doing is the complete opposite of that. She’s reinforcing her “rogue” persona while stepping all over the toes of the Republican establishment. I think she preparing something big. Perhaps a once in a century event. Let’s start with a little history lesson, and no, it’s not about Paul Revere.
The election of 1912 is possibly the most successful campaign by a third party in American history. Incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft is campaigning for reelection, but there is another big Republican name in the race. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, unhappy with his hand-picked successor, is running for the Progressive Party after a failed campaign for the Republican nomination. In a unprecendented campaign, the incumbent President was basically a non-factor. Roosevelt received more popular and electoral votes. In the end, the split of the Republican vote propelled a former college professor and New Jersey Governor named Thomas Woodrow Wilson to the White House.
If all the votes cast for Taft and Roosevelt were combined the Republicans would have defeated Wilson. This is the effect Sarah Palin could have on this race. In 2000 it was suggested that Ralph Nader did the same thing. His impact was probably minimal in reality, but it was an extremely close election. Ross Perot had this kind of effect in 1992 when he gained 18.9% of the popular vote. Sarah Palin is poised to take up the mantle of the third-party candidate. She wouldn’t win the election, but she could effectively destroy any Republican chances of defeating President Obama. People are fed up with the establishment. Congress’ approval rating has been staggeringly low for years. The Tea Party is continuing to make waves in national politics. All this is going on and Sarah Palin is being pushed from the media spotlight by an increasing focus on the presidential race. She started changing that with her bus tour. Palin gets all the media attention she wants. FOXNews will bend over backwards to put her on TV.
On FOX and in stump speeches is where Palin shines. People recently ran her through the ringer about her account of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Live Q&A is not her strong suit. She’s not good on the fly. Her Paul Revere account could have been completely accurate and it would have sounded like gibberish. However, if you put her in her comfort zone she is the ultra-Republican. She can send out buzzwords and catchphrases with the best of them, and she seems like a normal person doing it. She appeals to a significant portion of the Republican party who hates liberals, and is tired of the old white male conservatives who have been running the party. She could steal enough of the vote to doom Romney, Pawlenty, or any of the others to a life of celebrity golf.
The real question is would she? Would Palin ensure a victory for Obama just to stay in the spotlight. I think history says she would. It also allows her the chance to show the establishment that she needs to be listened to. After the 2010 midterms, Palin took a credibility hit. She endorsed some candidates (like Christine O’Donnell) that cost Republicans some congressional seats. If she wants to get back to the table it might be worth it force an election loss for her personal gain. This election will mark the 100 year anniversary of the election when the Bull Moose Party cost Republicans the White House. So we have to ask, will the Mama Grizzly so the same. I think she will.