With Sarah Palin’s next Iowa visit mere days away, the will-she-or-won’t-she frenzy is at an all time high.
The former Alaska governor will headline the inaugural event of the Tea Party of America in Indianola, Iowa, Sept. 3. That event, coupled with a new video highlighting her trip to the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, seems to indicate that she’s moving toward getting into the 2012 presidential race.
SarahPAC put out a statement Monday night warning that “DC pundits” are “citing false information that she has made a decision and set a date regarding a future campaign.”
“Any professional pundit claiming to have ‘inside information’ regarding Governor Palin’s personal decision is not only wrong but their comments are specifically intended to mislead the American public,” the statement said.
It threw cold water on the idea, most prominently brought up by Karl Rove on Fox News, that Palin’s announcement is imminent.
Sources Predict ‘Important,’ ‘Major’ Speech
Regardless, her Sept. 3 speech will be both important and news-making, sources close to Palin said. One of them said that it will be a substantive, big-picture vision of America.
But when it comes to 2012, sources said, even her closest advisers do not know what her decision, or whether she has made one. Her self-imposed deadline is approaching: At the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, Palin told ABC News’ Jake Tapper that September would be “a drop-dead time” for her to enter the race.
When asked by reporters at the State Fair whether she would be in by Labor Day, Palin replied, “I doubt it. By the next time I am here by Sept. 3? I don't know if within the next couple of weeks I will be ready for an announcement or not.”
Peter Singleton, the head of the Iowa chapter of the independently run group Organize4Palin who moved to the state almost a year ago to volunteer for the non-campaign, said he doesn’t think Palin will make an explicit announcement Sept. 3. But he believes it will be “clear” from her “major” and “important” speech that Palin is getting into the race.
Singleton said he thinks the speech will start a “conversation with the American people” and focus on “who we are as a people and what’s at stake in this election and what the primary debate will be on our side.” He said he believes the speech will “lay out her vision for the country, returning to the vision of the founders,” something Palin often speaks about.
Singleton spoke like a soldier waiting to be called into battle.
“We are just soldiers holding on to a patch of ground,” he said of Organize4Palin’s volunteers. “We will know when the general is in when we hear the jets roar overhead. We will be ready when she gets in. We are pouring over our maps of the drop zone.”
And, to Singleton, they are working independently of the “general.”
“The general is doing what she needs to do,” he said. “We don’t worry about the general, we worry about our job.”
Organize4Palin and, specifically, Singleton have been on the ground in Iowa for months speaking at county Republican meetings and establishing relationships with caucus-goers and GOP donors. He predicts a “massive grassroots army” when she declares her candidacy.
“It will be many hundreds of thousands strong, 20 times what another candidate has,” he said. “It will be an engaged grassroots base of sovereign citizens that will be [there for Palin] at the primary, the general election, and be her base for governing when she is in office.”
Considering Palin’s supporters in Iowa, it might seem odd that they did not try and get the former Alaska governor write-in votes at the Iowa straw poll. Perry received 718 write-ins, or 3.62 percent, while Palin received less than 1 percent. But Singleton said that unlike the Perry volunteers, Organize4Palin didn’t urge any Iowans to write Palin in, saying the straw poll was not their goal because “she’s not in the race” right now and their goal is instead “to do well at the caucuses.”
Do or Die Time for Palin?
Charlie Gruschow heads up the group sponsoring Palin’s speech, Tea Party of America. He said Palin’s team told him it would be a “major address” and he believes that one of three things will happen at the Labor Day weekend event: She will announce that she is getting in the race, she’ll say she isn’t jumping in, or she’ll put “a marker in the sand, lay down her sword and say, ‘here is what the candidates need to talk about, these issues.’”
Craig Robinson, the former Iowa GOP political director who runs The Iowa Republican, thinks Palin should use the event to announce her candidacy, and said the consequences could be dire if she doesn’t. He said her grassroots volunteer base headed by Singleton is “significant” and they are “well networked in the state with activists, big Republican donors, and they are well connected with business people” in Iowa. But, he cautioned, you can’t just “flip a switch” with grassroots support and stressed Palin will need a “well-oiled machine to be successful.”
“If you are having an event with multiple thousands of people with a high-profile person like Sarah Palin, you wonder, what does it mean? And if she doesn’t announce, people will be disappointed because what is this about?” he said. “There has to something significant about this event or it runs the risk of alienating people. I don’t think she can kick the can down the road any longer.”
Robinson employed a summer appropriate metaphor.
“If she does want to run, she has to either jump into the water and learn how to swim or not,” he said. “I don’t think she can wait much longer to get in.”
Robinson also noted that it will be hard to plan another large event in the state in three weeks if that’s when she does decide to jump in. Of course, like other candidates this cycle, Palin could make her announcement via a video on her website or a Facebook post.
More than anything, it seems, her supporters want an answer. Robinson compared the prospect of her not running to the rapture that never happened.
“People need to leave this event on Sept. 3 and know what Sarah Palin is up to. No more guessing,” he said. “A lot of Iowans are convinced she is running because Peter [Singleton] has done a good job. If she doesn’t run, people will be like the people who sold their homes to buy signs warning that the end is coming and it never came. It reminds me of this Palin thing. If she doesn’t run, people will be severely disappointed.”
It’s important to note that no matter what, Palin plays by her own rules. It’s plausible that she could decide on Sept. 3 that she does want to announce without alerting her inner circle, much like her decision to resign from office in July 2009. Palin knows that a surprise announcement in front of her most passionate supporters would solidify her as the candidate that can always suck the oxygen out of the room. In a cycle with so many announcements before the announcement, she would be able to trump all the beltway pundits who have signaled her demise since 2008.
Of course, there is a downside to this. She would have to build an organization under the intense scrutiny of being an announced candidate, unlike her rivals. But she has consistently said that if she decided to get into the race, the campaign would be “unconventional” and “untraditional.”
It would certainly show if Palin learned anything from the media blitz that rolled out after Sen. John McCain surprised the country and picked her to be his running mate in 2008. Of course, this time, Palin would be calling the shots.