Former spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee and fellow MSNBC contributor Karen Finney made a good point last night on “The Last Word” during a discussion about (who else?) Sarah Palin. The first of the big speakers at the Republican National Convention in Tampa were announced Monday, and the 2008 vice presidential nominee and half-term governor of Alaska wasn’t among them. Nor was her name among those announced this afternoon. “[C]learly they have not come to her with something that she feels is appropriate,” Finney said in reaction to statements made by Palin and by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about Palin’s possible role. And that’s a big problem.
Say what you will about Palin — and I have said plenty over the last four years — she put the sorely missing punch into Sen. John McCain’s presidential ticket in 2008. There was an excitement about her that thrilled Republicans and scared the bejeezus out of Democrats. That is, until Palin’s disastrous interviews with ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, who was with CBS at the time. McCain and Palin would lose that election. But the base of the GOP never stopped believing in her. To leave Palin off the all-star roster at the Tampa Bay Times Forum is just asking for trouble.
Palin certainly wants to be in Tampa. Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney, can’t afford to have her on the outside looking in. As one Republican operative told me, “The last thing Mitt needs is a pissed-off Palin, whose supporters will be loud and ugly about it all.” Romney doesn’t need this headache because he is still trying to convince skeptical conservatives that he is one of them.
The difficulty of that task was made plain just this afternoon in a blog post from Erick Erickson of the influential Red State blog reacting to the Romney campaign’s response to the brutal attack ad from pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action.
Conservatives have put aside their distrust of Romney on this issue in the name of beating Barack Obama. They thought he and his campaign team had gotten the message and the hints. Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.
Now, imagine Romney and his newly minted running mate having to compete with a dissed Palin. Imagine her giving a speech or holding rallies just outside the convention walls to her fans, curious onlookers and a “lamestream media” that will thrill in the unfolding drama. Don’t think it could happen? Remember, it was Palin who insisted on delivering her own concession speech on Election Night in 2008. Her unprecedented move was shot down by two senior McCain aides and then by McCain himself. There would be no one standing in the way of her making such an unprecedented move in 2012.