Commentary Magazine


Reading the Tea Leaves With Ailes on Palin

I agree with Peter’s analysis of Sarah Palin’s problems. There’s simply no way that a person with those kind of negative ratings can be elected president. The whole country has already made up its mind about Palin with the majority not caring much for her. That is compounded by the fact that nothing that she does and says seems geared toward changing anyone’s mind. But there’s no denying that she has proved this week that she has plenty of star appeal. She’s a magnet for publicity and has had lots of fun messing with the press covering her bizarre tour that either is or is not a prelude to a presidential campaign.

The reviews on her extravaganza have been mixed with her followers and fans reveling in the attention she has gotten as well as in the shabby way she treated the press sent out to follow her. Less positive are the reviews from Republican activists, including some who would have liked to have either seen her (but couldn’t because she refused to post a schedule) or interacted with her (which voters in New Hampshire think is their birthright).

But more and more the reaction from Republicans to her escapades is to merely shrug and predict that in the end she won’t run. Her followers claim, not without justice, that such predictions are merely wishful thinking on the part of people who would never support her anyway. So what are supposed to think? It seems to me the possible scenarios right now are the following:

A. Sarah Palin is going to run and her bus tour is just the start of months of unorthodox campaigning aimed at reinforcing the “rogue” image that her fans adore and everybody else hates.

B. Sarah Palin wants to run but isn’t sure she really wants to put up with the bother of campaigning. The bus tour with its lack of a schedule and deliberate slights to GOP activists is a sign of both her interest and ambivalence about the project.

C. Sarah Palin isn’t going to run but she sees the bus tour as a way of keeping her “brand” and influence alive.

Right now any one of these predictions looks as good as the other since no one outside of Palin’s inner circle has the faintest idea of what she will do. For myself, I’m guessing option C. That’s not because I think the evidence for that is any stronger than the other two but because it appears to be what Fox News head Roger Ailes is thinking. The day Ailes becomes convinced that Palin is running will be the same day that he suspends her as a Fox contributor, the way he did other candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Ailes must be thinking that Palin is more like Mike Huckabee, who chose to keep his Fox News show rather than run. Until events prove him wrong, that’s my bet.