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Away from straw poll, Sarah Palin weighs her options

August 13, 2011|By Robin Abcarian
(Scott Olson/Getty Images )

Reporting from Ames, Iowa — Sarah Palin has left Iowa, her “One Nation” bus tour stopping in Saturday at the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan in Dixon, Ill., but looking back on her whirlwind visit to the Iowa State Fair on Friday, and some comments she made in response to reporters, it seems she is not just stringing her indecision out for fun and fame. She appears to be weighing her options and believes that the rules of timing and engagement do not apply to her.

“Each campaign that I have ever run in these 20 years of elective office have been kind of unconventional, right, Todd? We’ve always been outspent, two-to-one, five-to-one, 10-to-one. Never won any polls heading into election night. But usually won the election. So it would be unconventional and very grass roots.”

Palin, who has a small, far-flung staff, some of whom are not experienced in national politics, added, “And I wouldn’t be out there looking for hires out of that political bubble that seemed to result in the same old ideas, the same old talking points, the things that Americans get so sick and tired of hearing and kind of suffering through. We want new energy, we want conviction and passion and candidness.”

The Palins, who have purchased a tony home in Scottsdale, were asked whether they had moved to Arizona. “No,” said Todd Palin. “Piper starts school in a couple days.” Todd Palin said that he and his wife have reached out to political leaders for advice, but would not name any.  “This is a big step,” said Todd. “You take everybody’s advice and input….Everybody’s information and wisdom is important….The biggest thing is making sure she has all the tools in the tool box if she decides to pull the trigger.”

If she decided to run, Palin would not be starting from scratch here, where California attorney Peter Singleton, a supporter, has been living virtually full-time, criss-crossing the state meeting Iowans, building a database for Palin should she decide to run for president. He began his work without any coordination with SarahPAC, her political organization, but is now on Palin’s radar.

Singleton was invited to lunch with her in the fair’s VIP tent, and spent the rest of the afternoon at her side, a self-appointed bodyguard of sorts. He had met her last month in Pella, Iowa, at the premiere of filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon’s documentary about her, “The Undefeated.”

Palin also invited Craig Robinson, the founder of the website the Iowa Republican to lunch. Robinson said he had a five-minute chat with Palin.

Earlier during her fair visit, Palin seemed to level a mild barb at  Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for whom she campaigned in his last election. Perry announced his presidential candidacy Saturday in Charleston, S.C. Real Clear Politics reporter Scott Conroy tweeted what he interpreted as her criticism of Perry. A second reporter asked her about “reports” that she’d criticized the Texas governor.

“See, this is what I don’t understand about the press,” Palin said. “You asked me ‘What’s the difference between your experience as a governor and Rick Perry’s?’ and I said there’s two different forms of government in the state of Alaska and in the state of Texas. Alaska has a very powerful executive position. Texas, it’s not as powerful. That doesn’t mean he’s doing a better job or worse job than any other governor, including myself. It just means it’s different.”

 She and Perry share an overlapping constituency.

Both are telegenic personalities with tough, frontier personae—she as the Mama Grizzly, and he as the guy who shot a coyote that menaced his dog during a run. Both appeal to Republican Iowa caucus goers who are overwhelmingly socially conservative evangelical Christians and like candidates to have executive experience. This is the bloc that delivered an upset caucus victory to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2007.

Palin also addressed the inevitable comparision to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the only woman in the race so far. A CNN reporter asked her whether there was any jealousy or resentment between her and Bachmann, who has soared to the top of polls.

“That is so passé,” Palin said. “Just because there may happen to be two women in the race. As Michele put it once, get in the mud and engage in cat fighting, that’s ridiculous. It’s kind of even a sexist notion to consider that the two women would kinda be duking it out. No, if I want to duke it out, I will duke it out with guys.”

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