In these dog days of summer, Sarah Palin supporters rightly are getting extremely anxious for her presidential announcement. I should state right upfront … I think it will happen soon. But that’s a gut feeling. Governor Palin herself has stated that she will announce her decision in either August or September. So, we’re looking at less than seven weeks maximum … but it could be any day now, right?
Every day, however, we see supporters urging her to get in — yesterday. They seem to suggest that she’s blown it big time by waiting. I see where they’re coming from. They see other candidates making moves and laying campaign groundwork. It makes sense. Nevertheless, though I don’t have any inside knowledge of the Palin plans or strategy, here are six possible reasons why Governor Palin has not yet announced her intention to run for the White House.
(And yeah, I’m making the assumption that she’s running based on these earlier clues, and that she will announce either this month or next as she has previously stated.)
1. She’s the only GOP candidate who can wait.
Just like President Obama’s famous gaffe that, "Whether we like it or not we remain a dominant military superpower" … Well, whether Sarah Palin likes it or not, she remains a dominant GOP superstar — the only one, in fact. Recent polling puts her name ID at about 95% — measurably higher than the name recognition for Mitt Romney. Heck that’s gotta be significantly higher than the name recognition of the sitting vice president. (Say it ain’t so, Joe.) Call it a silver lining of being relentlessly attacked and having her life scrutinized like no other VP candidate in history: Palin is universally known, and need not spend the early part of a campaign introducing herself to voters and potential donors. Let’s try to remember that Bill Clinton announced in October of 1991 in a similar "presidential down year." Even veteran Democrat strategist Donna Brazile gets it:
Palin can wait until the last possible moment to officially file her intent to run. Others who have already filed or are looking to file need to start developing traction-generating strategies now. However, Palin has both name recognition and the ability to quickly raise the funds needed to pull together a massive organization in the key early states. This media-savvy political professional can decide when it is the right time for her to file.
2. She clearly wants to be the last one in.
Part of any military or political campaign is knowing what you’re up against. She wants to know all her opposition upfront, and not allow a Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or even Rick Perry to steal any of her thunder. If there is going to be any thunder in this race, it will be hers.
"Let your plans be dark as night. Then strike like a thunderbolt." — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
3. She’s unorthodox.
Part of being unconventional is operating independently from the herd. While she may want to be the last one in, perhaps she really doesn’t give a whoop what the other candidates are doing. Maybe she doesn’t care that some in the media or even among her support base will write her off as a non-candidate. She will run her campaign on her own terms. To be sure, she is studying the opposition, but they won’t sway her announcement date, nor will the constant media meme that "she’s not running." She has always marched to her own drum beat, and in the last two-plus years her supporters should have gotten used to the unpredictable: her decision to take the costly political and legal fight away from her governorship, her decision to join Fox News as a contributor, her decision to film an uplifting documentary about her state, her decision to launch a bus tour on Memorial Day weekend.
Palin may have reasons to delay that are known only to her. Maybe she wants her announcement date to be historically significant (the 91st anniversary of women’s suffrage-Aug. 26, Constitution Day - Sept. 16 have both been suggested) as she announced her gubernatorial bid on Alaska Day (Oct. 18). Maybe she just wanted to spend one last relatively tranquil summer with her husband, parents, kids and grandkids. Maybe she has calculated the financial costs of an unconventional campaign, and has determined the precise number of months she can afford to run it given fundraising forecasts. (We know she’s a budget wonk, right?) Whatever the reason, we’ll know soon enough what she has decided.
4. She wants to let her opponents rise or fall on their own merits.
Once Palin jumps in, the media will follow her around like paparazzi. It’s very doubtful they will vet her primary opponents. As we’ve already seen, GOP hopefuls have made unforced errors, and some have not performed well in the race to date. Palin may simply want to watch them operate, and not prematurely launch herself into the fray to become the media’s favorite punching bag again. Let the withering media glare fall on the other hopefuls for awhile to test their mettle and stamina before she becomes the de-facto front-runner upon her entrance. I think in racing terms it’s called "drafting." She will coast along within striking distance without having to exert herself all that much, and let other "racers" and GOP team members absorb the media and Democrat headwinds for awhile, before she makes her calculated move to the front of the pack.
5. She wants to test the mettle of her shock troops.
A key aspect of an unconventional campaign is its decentralized command structure, right? When she runs, Palin will not rely on a top-heavy, astro-turfing game plan, nor a billion-dollar bankroll. She will rely instead on a real grassroots army of committed volunteers operating somewhat independently of her control and authority. Admittedly, we don’t know exactly what that kind of campaign will look like. Certainly there will be some degree of coordination and communication with the campaign hierarchy. But right now, the ground troops are organizing in the early primary states in loosely structured teams, independent of a formal campaign. They’re meeting with local GOP leaders and reaching out to voters in person and over the phone – and they’re doing it because they are genuinely committed to Palin becoming president, and have studied and researched her record, believing she is the right person for the job.
And that relative independence and high level of commitment makes all the difference on the ground and to Palin’s assessment of her chances. It’s still a huge uphill battle, obviously, but when a Palin organizer goes into a party committee meeting and talks up Palin, the locals know that they’re not just getting the typical dog-and-pony show from a paid consultant. They’re getting authentic support, and genuine enthusiasm. Even though right now we may constitute a small percentage of voters, Palin is counting on her well-informed, highly enthusiastic supporters being her best advocates and taking the initiative to make things happen organically on the ground. It’s the only way she can run her unconventional campaign, and the best shot she has at the nomination.
6. She’s not delaying, she’s preparing.
All those pundits who urged Palin to leave the room, and "study up" might just get what they wished for – but they may not like the end result. Imagine a fully "armed", fully prepared Palin? Already possessing natural political instincts admired by both sides of the aisle, and deft administrative skills, just think of her potential to dominate when she comes out with 10-minute campaign videos laying out her specific plans to restore American greatness! Imagine when her detailed Facebook post smackdowns and policy prescriptions are on the op-ed page of USA Today!
Palin didn’t have the chance to fully prepare before being thrust into the national spotlight on the McCain ticket. That wasn’t her fault. She was busy running her state, passing bi-partisan legislation, and racking up an 88% approval rating nearly two years into her governorship. This time around, we can be sure she will leave no contingency unplanned. After two years of writing, giving speeches, granting interviews and engaging with voters across the country, she will be ready to debate and discuss federal policy in her usual straightforward, no-nonsense manner, with the polish of a national veteran.
Frankly, I think opponents and pundits had better just enjoy this little reprieve they’ve been granted from the full Palin assault. As my non-political husband noted after Palin’s recent Sean Hannity interview. "Gee, she is getting in a little extra batting practice on Mitt Romney, huh?"
Yep. She is waiting. And she is practicing her swings — before she steps up to the plate with the intent to crush it out of the park.
“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War