Conservative darling Sarah Palin has been hitting the headlines again. Last month Wasilla’s ex-mayor showed she still had that certain touch, with a deft intervention in the race for New York’s safely Republican 23rd congressional district. Palin backed an ultra-conservative candidate against her party’s official pick, moderate Dede Scozzafava. Scozzafava promptly quit, and endorsed the Democratic candidate, who proceeded to win handsomely, the first time a Democrat had won in more than a century.
If this adroit contribution to conservative renewal didn’t have Republican bosses worried enough, Palin yesterday launched her biography, Going Rogue—a tell-all look behind her comparably nimble tilt at the vice-presidency, back in 2008. The book has already sparked angry remonstrations among John McCain’s staff, with campaign manager Steve Schmidt describing as “total fiction” the allegation that he yelled at Palin after she was tricked by a French comedian pretending to be Nicolas Sarkozy, while her claim to frugality when governor of Alaska has also been disputed.
Palin was rumoured to have demanded a cool $11.5m — yes, you read that right, eleven point five — advance for the opus. Even so, the roughly $1.25m she is thought to have eventually received will help pay off the large legal bills she built up defending court cases about political mismanagement in Alaska, and perhaps leave enough to begin a small presidential campaign for 2012….
A recent Gallup Poll found that 63 percent of voters would not seriously consider her for the White House. But with a national book tour beginning on 19th November, interviews scheduled with Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, and the burgeoning fame of Bristol Palin’s ex-boyfriend Levi Johnston (he recently won “Best Porn Crossover” at the First Annual Fleshbot Awards) it seems that the storm around Palin will not be blowing over anytime soon. Republican strategists will be delighted.
But will she run? It certainly looks like it. I’ve had off the record chats with GOP folks in Washington who tell me she is only in it for the money and the attention — those debts need to be paid, and Palin simply enjoys the limelight. But, they say, when she stares down the barrel of a vicious campaign (just imagine how Mitt Romney is going to try to tear her down) she will balk. At the moment the other GOP candidates treat her with kid gloves. Last weekend one of them—perhaps Tim Pawlenty, I forget —was on TV trotting out the standard line, which is “Sarah sure is something, isn’t she? She gets the base excited, and that is just terr-i-fic. Now we disagree on a few things, but…..” And it is that final bit which is actually the most disingenuous. For her potential opponents will surely (and rightly) attack her on character: all nudges and winks about her temperament, her quitting her job in Alaska, her not being remotely ready. And when Palin thinks about all this, perhaps she will pull back. But, at the moment, it’s full steam ahead for Palin 2012. Barack Obama, for one, must be utterly delighted.