Sarah Palin’s most passionate supporters held an online forum today to assess what they should do going forward, now that the former Alaska governor has announced she won’t enter the GOP 2012 field.
Participants of the forum, called Grizzlyfest, came together for three hours to praise Palin, plot how they will continue their grassroots political organizing in 2012, and how they will choose 2012 candidates after Palin stunned the group last month when she announced she would not seek the GOP nomination. The running theme of the event was that despite their chosen candidate’s decision, they will stay active in conservative politics.
Josh Painter, who runs the blog Texans for Sarah Palin, acknowledged that many supporters he knew were still “coming out of shock” at Palin’s decision, but that Grizzlyfest was an “excellent opportunity” to assess “where we are and where we are going.”
The forum at times sounded like a support group aimed at re-energizing the group who had devoted so much time to supporting Palin — some even moving to early states to campaign for the non-candidate — convinced she would run for president.
Palin did not participate in the event, but her brother, Chuck Heath Jr., called into the forum.
Panelist Nicole Coulter, an editor at the pro-Palin site Conservatives4Palin, asked the question that kept popping up on the event’s chat page where listeners could ask questions of the panelists: Can you convince Palin to change her mind?
“I can’t convince Sarah of anything,” Heath said. “But I will definitely work on her. I understand the reason that she had for not running, but I look at the other choices and it was painful for me, too. Honestly not because she’s my sister, but I honestly thought she was the best candidate out there. I’ll keep working on her.”
He said Palin’s early days in beauty pageants, which he said she did to get a college scholarship, “gave her a bit of confidence” and that “kind of snowballed into what happened now.”
Heath also announced that he’s working on a book with his father Chuck Heath about their family’s “Alaska experiences going back to our grandparents and even before then. It will give everybody a really good look at the influences that made Sarah who she is today.”
Some supporters said they would look to whom Palin endorses in the 2012 races — including Senate and congressional elections — but they wouldn’t blindly follow her decisions.
Conservative columnist Jedidiah Bila said she was “interested in what she’s (Palin) going to do” and she’s “interested in who she’s (Palin) going to support,” but she would make her own decisions on who to vote for. Several panelists agreed saying they would look for candidates with similar values and policy positions as Palin.
Grizzlyfest panelists included conservative radio host Tammy Bruce and Steve Bannon, who made the pro-Palin film “The Undefeated.” Other speakers on the panels were supporters who run the pro-Palin grassroots group “Organize4Palin” and blog on the site “Conservatives4Palin.” All the panelists discussed what they called the next step in the “Restoration,” taken from a theme Palin consistently talks about: “Restoring America.”
Palin aide Rebecca Mansour, who started the website Conservatives4Palin where many of the panelists also contribute, also called into the event. She told the panelists and listeners not to be “discouraged” by Palin’s decision, adding that her supporters will “hold anyone who runs against Obama accountable” and pledged to “take back the Senate” in 2012. Mansour urged the group to “stay energized” despite the change in focus.
The group never named specific candidates whom they may rally around, but the terms “crony capitalism” and “permanent political class” — favorite terms of Palin’s — were repeated over and over again making it clear that Palin supporters won’t naturally jump to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has had to fight back against criticism that he gave out prize positions and other advantages to campaign donors throughout his tenure.
Perry was only mentioned once, when Zahnd, who runs the Illinois chapter of Organize4Palin, referred to him and President Obama when talking about politicians she sees as fitting the “crony capitalism” mold.
Bannon urged the group not to dismantle despite not having the clear goal they had before saying, “It behooves everyone to stay together” adding that he thinks Palin would “support this 100 percent.”
Peter Singleton, one of two Palin supporters who relocated to Iowa to campaign for Palin for almost a year before Palin announced her decision, was also one of the panelists. He said he hasn’t left the Hawkeye state despite Palin’s decision and will continue to split his time between there and his home in California. Singleton said he believes Palin will be the “leader of the restoration movement, but she won’t lead us alone.”
Despite pledges to remain active and continue their work on behalf of other conservative candidates, there were no concrete decisions on candidates to support or politicians the group would coalesce behind in 2012. The goal of Grizzlyfest was to try to re-energize a group deeply disappointed by Palin’s decision. The one thing that was clear by the end, that real disappointment remains despite a willingness to try and stay as a cohesive group without a leader.
*Update* Originally this post stated that Whitney Zahnd interviewed Chuck Heath. The post has been corrected because Nicole Coulter actually asked Heath the question.