Palin 2012: Crafty or Chaotic?

The drama surrounding Palin's Saturday rally in Iowa could hurt a potential run

August 31, 2011, 6:40 PM

Aug 31, 2011— -- Sarah Palin's latest drama, Will She or Won't She Pull Out of Saturday's Tea Party Rally in Iowa, could cause whiplash for those watching her closely. But taking a step back from the chaos and finger-pointing, the real question is: If she does decide to get into the race, could drama like this prevent her from running a presidential campaign?

"If she is running for president, she needs a team of advisors and people that will put on events that will have her best interests in mind," said Craig Robinson, former political director of the Iowa Republican Party. "A lot of what went on today and yesterday, Palin's best interest wasn't in mind when making decisions about the events. She needs her own political team around her."

"What went on today and yesterday" includes Palin's team putting "on hold" an event that it signed on to in July-- this coming Saturday's Tea Party of America Rally in Indianola, Iowa, with Palin as featured speaker. That's according to Tea Party of America founder Ken Crow, who told ABC News that Palin's team was upset at a Wall Street Journal report that Palin was opting out of the event, although that report came out around the same time several other media outlets reported that the event was, rather, on hold.

A source close to SarahPAC said Palin's team was upset by how Tea Party of America organizers hyped the event; Tea Party of America, they believed, was trying to promote the event based on the chance Palin would announce her campaign intentions at the Saturday rally.

(It's worth noting here that in Palin's Iowa video released earlier this month she ended what looked like a campaign commercial with the phrase, "See you again September 3rd." )

Still with us? This is where Christine O'Donnell , the Delaware tea party darling, enters the picture.

According to rally organizers, O'Donnell reached out to the Tea Party of America and asked to speak. Crow agreed, and on Monday she was invited to speak. Crow said that almost immediately, the group received negative e-mails and at that point "panicked" and decided to rescind the invitation. (They added that O'Donnell's team was "less than truthful" about her current relationship with Palin, implying it was closer than it actually is.) On Tuesday, Crow said he decided to re-invite O'Donnell because "it was the right thing to do and we made a mistake." O'Donnell tweeted that she "humbly re-accepted the re-invitation" to speak.

But then that offer was rescinded. And Palin's team confirmed the former Alaska governor was indeed back on board.

Is this any way to run a campaign?

Palin said on her bus tour in May that her campaign would be both "untraditional" and "unconventional." Much of that means relying on a significant grassroots volunteer effort being built all over the country, mostly by a group called Organize4Palin. They are a passionate group of volunteers, but not part of the SarahPAC team, nor are they given orders by Palin's staff.

Palin does not have any hired staff on the ground in the early states and over Labor Day weekend is relying on two separate groups to plan her events for her: the Tea Party of America, in Iowa, and the Tea Party Express, in New Hampshire.

Robinson has closely watched her movements in Iowa and says Palin "cannot rely on anybody else" to build her campaign organization.

"When you sublease responsibilities [for planning an event] to another group, organization, or individual, even if it friendly, it's not the same," he added. "You lack control of the event."

Added Robinson, "This is not a Sarah Palin event although that's how it's billed, how it's perceived. It is someone else's event and she is part of it."

The latest in Palin's confirmation-cancellation dance recalls her behavior after the vice presidential campaign, when she cancelled several events that she had confirmed.

It's this decentralized organization and chaotic moves that convinces establishment Republicans that Palin is not running, although she has consistently said she is keeping the door open and more recently said she will decide by the end of next month.

The Palin team, says Robinson, "wouldn't have these problems if they were willing to do the grunt work and leg work to build the event themselves."

Crow blames the confusion not on SarahPAC, but on the one volunteer leading Palin's effort in Iowa, Peter Singleton. Singleton is a California attorney who moved to the state almost a year ago to try and build support for Palin in Iowa without knowing if she would even run. Singleton consistently says he is working independently of SarahPAC, and his efforts to lay a grassroots campaign for the non-candidate is his own doing.

However, Crow says once Palin's team confirmed her attendance last month, his group began working with Singleton to organize the event. Crow said he and the other Tea Party of America event organizers were under the impression that Singleton spoke for Palin in Iowa.

Crow said Singleton told him they needed to get a security team together because Palin is "threatened more than President Obama is." According to Crow, Singleton instructed the Tea Party of America to not only get a security team, but also get bomb sniffing dogs and make sure there are two exits out of the event for Palin; he also reportedly requested that the rally had to be in a "bucolic setting."

Crow said it was at that point he and Tea Party of America president Charlie Gruschow realized the rally was a "major undertaking." But they completed the list of demands.

But when SarahPAC touched base with the group, only recently, Crow told them they had security lined up and the bomb-sniffing dogs were ready to go. Palin's team informed Crow that Singleton doesn't speak for Palin and her team and they actually had their own security and transportation lined up.

Crow said all SarahPAC requested was "a bale of hay, a bullhorn, and other people talking at the rally."

Crow said that Palin herself didn't seem upset at the "mistakes" he admitted were made and instead passed word through her advance staffers, Jason Recher and Doug McMarlin, that she was excited to meet him and especially wanted to meet his 72-year-old mother, who didn't get a chance to meet the former Alaska governor at her event in Pella, Iowa, in June.

Singleton didn't respond to several requests for comments.

O'Donnell Drama

Then on Wednesday, Palin's team "put the event on hold" and one of the things on Crow's list of "mistakes" that he needed to correct was informing O'Donnell that she was back off. Crow said that he "found out we in fact had been lied to by her [O'Donnell's] people and we didn't want to participate. I didn't want to expose the governor to that sort of stuff."

It seems O'Donnell stretched the current relationship she has with Palin, whose endorsement led to her beating Rep. Mike Castle in the 2010 Delaware senate race. One of the Tea Party of America organizers said it's just not the case: "I can tell you that the governor and Ms. O'Donnell have not spoken in a year, but that's none of my business."

O'Donnell did not return requests for comment left with her publicity firm.

Palin has maintained that September would be the latest she'd wait to get into the 2012 race, but if today's back and forth is any indication, she's not in a rush to take on the organization, planning and scheduling common in most candidates.

ABC News' Sheila Marikar contributed to this report.

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