Peter Singleton and Michelle McCormick left their jobs, homes, and families to move to Iowa to campaign for Sarah Palin. Wednesday evening they found out they didn’t have a candidate.
The former Alaska governor’s supporters founded a group called Organize4Palin to build a grassroots network and essentially campaign for her: go to county meetings, stump for Palin with politically connected Iowans, and form a loose campaign structure for what they saw as an inevitable Palin campaign. It turned out not to be.
Sarah Palin made her decision known Wednesday releasing a statement to ABC News and telling radio host Mark Levin that she will not enter the presidential race. Wednesday evening she told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News that she “apologize(s) to those disappointed” with her decision saying that she had heard from them over the last few hours and hopes they understand “you don’t need a title to make a difference in this country.”
As the news broke that she would not run those supporters that were the most invested said they were “disappointed,” but had “no regrets.”
McCormick, 28, left her home in Texas in March and was almost unbelievably commuting to Iowa on the weekends. In July she made it official moving to Iowa to stump for Palin believing she would run. She said she “respected” her “role model’s” decision.
“I’m disappointed that I’m not going to have a candidate I can get behind for the 2012 GOP nomination, but I really do want people to know I so respect Gov. Palin and it doesn’t diminish my respect for her at all,” McCormick told ABC News. “She doesn’t owe me or Peter Singleton anything. We loved talking to the folks and getting engaged in politics.”
McCormick is single, but was away from both her family and career working around the clock for Palin. She said she was excited to “jump back to my real job” as a title analyst for the oil and gas business and miss the Iowa winter. Her work gave her a leave of absence to come to Iowa, but she wouldn’t disclose how much of her own money she’s invested into her move to the Hawkeye state, but said she couldn’t just “sit on her couch hoping Sarah Palin would run.”
“I don’t regret doing it at all. It’s been a wonderful experience. I had the pleasure of meeting Gov. Palin and it’s been fun,” McCormick said. “I think she’s the best person to carry forward the principals I believe in, but I would never guilt trip or pressure her in. This is not what this is about.”
Peter Singleton, 56, has been living in Iowa for almost a year and was so known as the face of Palin in the state many political operatives thought he worked for SarahPAC. He continues to stress he was always working completely independent of her political organization.
Singleton said he wasn’t sad, but he too was “disappointed.”
“Disappointed for the country because I think she was the best choice for president at this time. I think I’ve been really clear I expected her to run, I believed she would run. I understood there was a chance that she didn’t, but it was always her choice. I have enormous respect for Gov. Palin as a leader and I respect her decision.”
Their devotion cannot be underestimated. Singleton left his life in California where he was about to embark on a new career as an attorney and has been “burning down his savings” to stay afloat. He is single, but also left his family to stump full time for Palin. His daughters have visited him in Iowa and even brought his grandson for a visit, but his work on Palin’s behalf was grueling putting in “100 hours a week.”
“Seven AM until one AM every day except for church on Sunday, but it’s what you do if you really believe the country is facing great challenges,” Singleton said.
He made quick 30 hour trips home to see his daughter graduate college and for Easter, but he’s spent most of the last year working for someone who was and is not a candidate. He doesn’t know yet when he’ll leave Iowa.
McCormick may stay the weekend, but is eager to return home to see her two year old nephew.
Although Singleton and McCormick are examples of Palin’s most passionate supporters, one only has to visit the website Conservatives4Palin to see there is an entire community of diehard fans. It was set up after the 2008 campaign by Rebecca Mansour, a woman who would go on to be one of Palin’s closest advisors and a SarahPAC staffer. It’s this community that gave birth to the Organize4Palin mission.
While not everyone up and moved their lives to another state, she inspired a passionate support system willing to defend her at all times. Supporters even asked others in the C4P community to bet on Intrade that Palin would run in the hopes that it would encourage her to. These are some of the people who will be the most heartbroken and it’s there that angry supporters that feel jilted are posting and commiserating, a sign that a real backlash against Palin is building in response to her decision.
TENCOLE posted: “I feel sad, disappointed and very bitter. I feel like the bride left at the alter and not feeling very good about the person that left me there. This could have been handled much better……we deserve better…the “boots on the ground” deserve better. I feel “led on”, and when I think of the numerous times I defended her/us against just such an announcement as this, I get nauseous … Her speeches coming up. you know like this weekend … guess what, I don’t care. She has made me start thinking that posters that I have been arguing with ad nauseaum, were right all along…*tear*”
CitizenG100 said the decision was an “unpleasant surprise and the “quitter meme is now set in stone.”
“As to how her decision affects her own political future, the short answer is she now no longer has one. She has proven her critics right and some of her supporters wrong … She could have run and lost and still won again in the future. She cannot ever win having bailed out on running this time though … Resigning in order to maintain a run for higher office is one thing, but resigning in order to become a permanent kingmaker/media commentator/cheerleader is quite another.”
Angry threads are all over the site as well as supporters posting that they don’t buy her reason for not running. jeffjackie posted, “I love Sarah, but the ‘I don’t need a title’ meme is dumb. President Palin would be far more impactful than citizen Sarah Palin.”
McCormick acknowledged “there’s probably going to be range of emotion after this no doubt about that,” but said she couldn’t speak for other supporters. Singleton said that he believes supporters that were active in Organize4Palin would not hold a grudge on Palin saying “we never felt like she had responsibility to tell us anything.”
Other posters said they would continue to support Palin, but the distraught, angry, and sad posts are all over the site.
One of Palin’s most fierce supporters who constantly tweets about her and defends Palin on both Twitter and C4P is a supporter that goes by the Twitter handle @IanLazaran. He wouldn’t agree to an interview for this story, but tweeted that there will be questions about Palin’s timing with her decision.
@sarahpalinusa needs to go do going forward is to provide an explanation for why it took her until October to arrive at her conclusion … If she can provide a good explanation, she’ll probably get the benefit of the doubt,” Lazaran tweeted in a series of two tweets.
Whitney Zahnd is the Illinois state Organize4Palin coordinator and says she’s still “surprised and in shock,” but she trusts that “it was a sincere decision.” Zahnd who is a health care researcher in Springfield and frequently posts on Conservatives4Palin says she’s “disappointed,” and was “convinced she was going to run.”
“That was always a possibility (that she wouldn’t run). I don’t discount that. I didn’t anticipate this, but it’s not something that comes as a complete shock,” Zahnd said. “She was honest that she had not made a decision until now. I appreciate this was something she put so much consideration into. As for backlash amongst Palin’s most ardent supports Zahnd said, “I think people will react in different ways and perhaps some will react that way. We will all have our different interpretation about her words and her intentions … everyone will react in different ways.”
Radio show host Tammy Bruce, one of Palin’s most passionate supporters, tweeted that she was stunned after the news broke.
“i’m as shocked as the rest of you, I’m in the process of speaking to a few people and will expand on my thoughts on this shortly … Frankly, I’m stunned, and must apologize to all of you for not being able to get enough information sooner … I’ll be honest — right now I’m not impressed with how this was handled. But I’m also still stunned. Have had tech problems all day,” Bruce said in a series of three tweets after the announcement.
Palin’s Facebook page was also inundated with distraught supporters. Clarie Net’s post was one that was repeated all over her page: extreme sadness.
“With Gov. Palin ruling out a presidential run, Americans was deprived of a leader who could have become one of the best presidents in America.
Very disappointed :(”
Several posters asked her to support other candidates running like Ron Paul or Herman Cain. Sheilagh Porto Nowacki posted, “Since you are not running, please support Herman Cain. Thanks.”
Palin’s endorsement is sure to be highly sought out, but that may not come soon, although she did tell Van Susteren Wednesday evening she was already being courted by members of the current field. Where will these Palin supporters flock to or will they just sit the primary out?
Zahnd believes when it comes to the Palin supporter community that is based around Conservatives4Palin that “a lot of people will wait and see if she will endorse and others will see if there’s somebody else to grab hold of. Everyone will come to their own conclusions.”
Zahnd added that she’s “not one of the people that will say if she’s not running I won’t vote for anyone, but I can’t say I’m leaning towards a certain candidate at this time.”
Singleton said he may support someone in the primaries, but that he doesn’t “think there is anyone remotely as strong as Sarah Palin, not in a million years.”
McCormick stressed she won’t be able to support Mitt Romney, but she may get behind someone else. There’s no one she would work as hard for as she did for Palin.
“If someone earns my vote whether that’s Herman Cain or I don’t know. I’m really not pleased with the field. It is tough. I hope someone will earn my vote and there’s someone I can walk into the voting booth and pull the lever for them,” McCormick said.
Conservative pundit and Palin supporter Jedidiah Bila re-tweeted Bruce predicting Herman Cain would be the beneficiary of Palin not running. Bila tweeted earlier that she believed Cain would get the “biggest gain” from Palin’s decision.
“@JedidiahBila: “@HeyTammyBruce: It is now @THEHermanCain versus The Machine. I have felt he’s not ready but perhaps we work to help him *be* ready”
However, Steve Bannon who made the pro-Palin documentary “The Undefeated,” said her supporters “will eventually go to that person who they feel represents tea party values. It could be Herman Cain, Gov. Perry, or Michele Bachmann”
ABC News’ Michael Falcone contributed to this report.