Sarah Palin is in an escalating war of words with the media after the online publication Politico reported that the GOP establishment is coalescing around a common mission to stop the former Alaska governor from running for president in 2012.
Last night Palin responded, telling Fox News' Greta Van Susteren the story was "crap." This afternoon she took it a step further, describing Politico as "puppy-kicking, chain-smoking porn producers" for basing its story on information from unnamed Republican sources.
In an email to another online publication, The Daily Caller, Palin wrote "I suppose I could play their immature, unprofessional, waste-of-time game, too, by claiming these reporters and politicos are homophobe, child molesting, tax evading, anti-dentite, puppy-kicking, chain smoking porn producers…really, they are… I've seen it myself…but I'll only give you the information off-the-record, on deep, deep background; attribute these 'facts' to an 'anonymous source' and I'll give you more."
The 2008 vice-presidential nominee told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren last night that Politico reporters Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei were "jokes."
"If they would man-up and if they would, you know, make these claims against me then I can debate them, I can talk about it, but to me they're making stuff up again," Palin said. "And these are the brave people who want to lead the nation and run the world, huh? But they're not brave enough to put their name in an article."
Even on the final, frenzied day of the 2010 campaign season -- a political year when Sarah Palin isn't even on the ballot -- the lightening rod, former Alaska governor is still very much in the spotlight.
Through her political action committee, SarahPAC, which raised millions this year, her Facebook and Twitter pages, her public speeches, candidate endorsements and television appearances, Palin has managed to insert herself into the thick of the midterm election cycle and command more media attention than perhaps any other Republican political figure.
The trend continued on Monday as a pack of GOP leaders rushed to her defense in the wake of the report by Politico.
The report in Politico, based largely on anonymous sources, indicated that these operatives "see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility" Palin has amassed in 2010. Their goal is to spoil her presidential prospects because, according to the story, they do not view Palin as strong enough to defeat President Barack Obama two years from now.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was among the first to blast those unnamed Palin critics in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America."
"Put your name next to your quote and then have a conversation with Sarah Palin," Steele said on Monday. "Until then, leave it alone. You know all this kind of dissension and, you know, frustration within the party is not doing anything to get Republicans elected tomorrow. So, until we get that job done let's not worry about 2012."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is likely to be one of Palin's chief rivals if she decides to run in 2012, dismissed the story as "nonsense" in an interview on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's show on Monday.
"First of all, I know Sarah Palin pretty well," Romney said, "and if she wants to run, there's not going to be any Washington elites stopping her."
Palin Not the Only One Raising Profile Ahead of 2012
Another likely 2012 GOP candidate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty tweeted his response: "Politico story is way off. Palin deserves great credit for all her work on GOP's behalf."
The potential Republican contenders were not only offering loud and clear messages in support of Palin, they were also taking the opportunity to present -- at least publicly -- a united front, as the political season changes from the midterms to the next presidential cycle.
And given Palin's growing influence among conservatives, it would appear to be a smart strategy. Even though only 39 percent of all registered voters said they view her favorably, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, her numbers are better within the Republican Party.
For example, 55 percent of conservative Republicans and 73 percent of those who identify themselves as strong supporters of the Tea Party movement said she is qualified to be president.
Steele, Romney and Pawlenly are also taking their cues from Palin herself, who rarely misses an opportunity to blast what she calls the "lame-stream media." Her tirade against Politico on Fox News on Sunday night, is among themost recent examples.
Palin, like other Republican stars that appear to be considering presidential runs, have raised their profile this year, endorsing candidates and hitting the campaign trail for dozens of House, Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls.
Romney has been busy crisscrossing the country stumping for candidates. On Monday he was traveling to Rhode Island to headline a rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille.
This year, Pawlenty has been a frequent visitor to Iowa, the crucial early primary state. He made several stops over the weekend with Terry Branstad, the GOP candidate for governor in the Hawkeye State.
Giuliani Warns Republicans Over Criticizing Their OwnPalin, who has worked hard to cultivate an image as a leader of the Tea Party movement, has been more selective about her appearances for individual candidates, was in West Virginia on Saturday on behalf of GOP Senate hopeful John Raese.
Another prominent Republican who has been flexing his political muscle on behalf of GOP candidates recently, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, warned on Monday that it was dangerous for members of his party to anonymously discuss the 2012 contest so soon.
"Let's not start this presidential race before this election is over, and let's not go through the negativity we went through in the last one where Republicans attacked the heck out of each other," Giuliani counseled on Fox News. "We've got a bigger mission here. Sarah Palin has every right to make her case to the Republican Party. How about we let the Republicans decide -- not the so-called leaders -- whether she is qualified or not?"