Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sarah doesn't want to be queen, she wants to be kingmaker

Sarah Palin's bus tour took her to Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and a pizza dinner with Donald Trump in New York on Tuesday, moves that may not have telegraphed serious presidential intentions but at least gave her another day of something immeasurable: attention.

Republican candidates who are intensely wooing early-state voters found themselves eclipsed for another day by the former Alaska governor, who repeated Tuesday that she was pondering whether to run. Unlike them, Palin found herself surrounded by reporters and voters, her bus tour bringing her back to the forefront of GOP politics regardless of her ultimate decision.

"Whether she runs or not, Palin needs to stay relevant in order to leverage her celebrity, influence and earning capacity," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican consultant who helped coach Palin when she was preparing for her vice presidential debate with Joe Biden in 2008. "She just proved that she still can generate crowds anytime she wants. Her machine just got oiled and taken out for a test drive."

Yes, she's playing the LSM like a Stradivarius:

There is nothing that the U.S. media wants more than something it thinks it can't have. Hence the power of news leaks that manipulate the thrust of their initial presentation. Hard-to-get is a rigid rule of human behavior. Ask any teenage boy or girl.

And there are few things more sweet to Palin and her fervent supporters cheering their TV sets this week than the image of a hungry know-it-all "lamestream media" caravan of 15 or more vehicles traipsing along behind her red-white-and-blue bus enroute to they-know-not-where to do they-know-not-what.

To make it worse, each one of the frustrated, confused chasers knows that Fox News' Greta Van Susteren is riding along with the not-yet-and-possibly-never Republican presidential candidate, filing exclusive conversations for her audience to gobble up that only enhance Palin's already million-dollar value to FNC.

Can you hear the teeth grinding?

The day's best line came from a CBS News producer who tried to claim that the lack of information from Palin's lumbering bus was endangering the dozen competing media vehicles trailing behind, uninvited.

As Michelle Malkin puts it so succinctly here, "The boys behind the bus."

Speaking of CBS, Katie Couric's unemployed now. And forget that front porch in Alaska. Sarah Palin can see revenge from her rear window.

This confirms what I have suspected all along: Sarah Palin isn't running for president. Loathe to quit a job that actually pays her a comfortable living, happily bereft of any actual work, Palin is quite busy assuming her position in conservative pop culture. She is transforming herself into a Tea Party version of a Kardashian; famous for essentially nothing and getting a lot of attention -- and making a lot of money -- doing it.

Besides, it's so much more powerful to be able to dictate terms to the eventual nominee. Sarah may be dumb, but she's not stupid.

The biggest excitement in recent days has surrounded Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee. Her bus tour, which stopped Tuesday at the Gettysburg battlefield, the Liberty Bell and New York City, is equal parts carnival, photo op and breezy history lesson.

Her meeting and dinner with real estate mogul and almost-candidate Donald Trump did nothing to tamp down the frenzy and frothiness.

Palin refuses to give reporters her schedule, and then gently upbraids them for their pell-mell efforts to locate, photograph and interview her. It's not clear that she will run for president, and some suspect her "One Nation" tour is designed mainly to support her lucrative book sales and TV appearances. If Palin does run for president, many Republican strategists feel she will do poorly, as her combative nature has driven down her approval ratings among GOP voters and others.

Yet by some counts, more than 100 journalists trooped alongside Palin in Philadelphia, an entourage that Pawlenty and others can only dream of. "It's quite chaotic anywhere we get off on the bus," Palin acknowledged.

Rich Nutinsky of Chadds Ford, Pa., returned to downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday after failing to find Palin there Monday. "I wished her luck and told her I supported her," Nutinsky said. "To me, she's a breath of fresh air."

Palin said she has not decided whether to run, even as she fueled speculation by saying her bus tour eventually will reach New Hampshire and Iowa.

Palin is effectively constructing a powerful brand. She will use its populist power to control who gets the Republican nomination for president, who gets picked for vice-president, and what their campaign's message should be. If there is ever going to be a Tea Party unbeholden to the Republican Party, it will only happen when Sarah decides to get a divorce from the GOP. That split could come in the 2012 presidential cycle.

But she can't really afford to have Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, call her bluff, and they are too afraid to do so anyway. Half-successful third-party movements are so 1992.

The odds are much more favorable that Palin will continue snapping her fingers and making the Republicans heel. The dogs are just too cowed by the Mama Grizzly to do anything else. And if her "Lamestream Media" keeps running along behind her like a pack of males after a bitch in heat ... well, all the better for her.

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