If Sarah Palin really is planning running for president, she’s breaking all the rules. The question is, does it matter? The answer is no and yes.
Palin’s tour bus is shlepping her family around the Northeast this week, and in doing so she’s proving that you don’t need advance people, schedules, or a good relationship with the press to make a splash. Palin is a magnet for cameras and audiences. Wherever she goes and however she manages to get there she will garner as much attention as possible. Nobody in the media likes her lack of a schedule, since it makes their lives miserable. Politicians are also incensed at her refusal to make courtesy calls to let local party officials know about her visits or to coordinate with them.
The point here couldn’t be any clearer: the former Alaska governor is in business for herself. That’s not just a reference to the fact that she is as much a one-woman media conglomerate as a politician. It means that, not only does she feel as if she doesn’t need the cooperation or at least the neutrality of other Republicans, but that she is also anxious to prove that she has no use for them. And she’s right. Her ability to swoop in and out like the touring celebrity that she is and not a politician on the hustings illustrates the fact that her putative candidacy would not be politics as usual. She would fly over the normal political structure of a state that she contested and rely on her ability to make news by just showing up rather than meticulous preparation.
The tour is also proving that her several months of quiet did not diminish her star quality. She is every bit the media superstar today that she was a year ago. Those who claim that she cannot wait until the fall to declare a presidential candidacy are wrong. She can swoop in virtually any time she likes prior to the voting and still have a chance if voters are buying what she is selling. Whether most will think, as George Will said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that “she can be trusted with nuclear weapons” is another question.
But to concede that she can play by her own rules is not the same thing as saying that she won’t pay a price for doing so. If the poorly staffed and chaotic nature of her tour is an indication of how she thinks she can run a presidential campaign, then she may not be as smart as she thinks she is. Primaries and caucuses require what the politicians call a “ground game” to get out the vote. Her complete lack of organization will eventually come back to haunt her. So, too will a decision to treat all other Republicans, including the local parties, as if they were reporters from the New York Times.