Will Sarah Palin run? She’s already given herself an out

Sarah Palin (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Sarah Palin (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

She's baa-aack.

Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity on Monday she's "considered" a run for the seat held by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). The operative word, of course, is  "considered": she "considered" running for president for months, as we all know. Palin is a master of the practice of turning political suspense into publicity, and many people are already debating whether she's serious or yet again just flirting with a run.

But what interests me most isn't whether she'll do it or not, but the reasons she stated for considering it. Her primary explanation for mulling a run, Palin told Hannity, is "because people have requested me considering it." She said similar things during the lead-up to the 2012 presidential campaign: "I'll run for President if the American people want me to," she reportedly told an audience in 2010, or "if nobody else wanted to step up."

Let's assume for a moment she's serious about running. Is the lack of alternatives or the requests of others really any reason to seek higher office? On the one hand, leaders need followers, and Palin—even today—still has plenty of them. And there are worse reasons to run (ego, power, fame) than the notion that she's being called to do so by others.

But the "because people want me to" answer removes Palin from the decision. It offers little insight into her personal motivations for (possibly) seeking the role. What is she willing to risk? What would she give up for a leadership role? This time around, she did tell Hannity that "any American with a heart for service" would need to do something, even if it didn't "fit in with a conventional plan that they would try to orchestrate for themselves and their family."

That might give her less of an out this time around. When she bowed out of the 2012 race, Palin pointed to her family as a reason. Still, listing others' desire for her to run as her first rationale for considering the job helps soften the criticism if she chooses not to do so. If Palin had said she felt uniquely qualified to enact change and wanted the job more than anything, then a decision not to run could give the impression she's afraid of losing. Pinning her reasons on the hopes of others gives her a better exit strategy if this turns out to be yet another flirtation with national politics.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

Sarah Palin's magical mystery tour

Sarah Palin considers 2014 bid

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor · July 9, 2013