Jacob Heilbrunn

Is Sarah Palin Running for the Presidency?

Is Sarah Palin running? Her and Todd's purchase of a $1.7 million house in Arizona is quickening pulses in the GOP. She's also shaken up her staff. If Palin runs, it will be good for the media and bad for the GOP.

Republicans are fretting about the quality of the field. Palin would energize it. She would do so by enunicating Tea Party principles. The effect would be to push candidates such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to the right. This would make for good theater in the primaries as the candidates vied with each other to support the Ryan plan, support Israel, bash Russia, and assail President Obama. But it could also be a recipe for a 1964 Barry Goldwater-type election, in which the GOP makes a mutual suicide pact. Goldwater spent much of 1964 marching into retirement homes and telling the elderly that he was going to cut their Social Security benefits and that it would be good for them.

The GOP establishment, of course, views Palin with horror. She's unruly. She speaks her mind. She flaunts her contempt for educated folks and independent voters, which is to say much of the electorate. In a general election, she might even outdo Goldwater as a presidential loser. But the signs are that she will run:

 

 

The drumbeat intensified Tuesday night when conservative filmmaker Stephen Bannon was quoted on RealClearPolitics, a political news site, as saying he was releasing a feature film he made with Palin's acquiescence about her tenure as governor. The film is to be shown next month in Iowa, whose caucuses open the nominating contest.

 

The conventional wisdom that Palin will damage her brand by running, however, may be wrong. If she wins the primaries, she will always be able to call herself a former presidential candidate of the GOP. And even if she wins only a few primaries, it will be a remarkable feat for someone who was a nobody just a few years ago. Palin remains John McCain's bequest to the GOP. She's even moving to McCain's homestate, which will undoubtedly be a lot hotter than Alaska.

Palin remains a force, much like the Tea Party, that the GOP regards with unease. It wants to harness her, but can't quite figure out how to do it. 2012 will show whether Palin can lead her own internal revolution to take over the GOP or whether she's simply a pretender.