The political world is in a tizzy over the magical mystery “One Nation” bus tour Sarah Palin will embark upon from Washington on Sunday. Is she running? Or is this another stunt in a near-three-year “Please don’t stop looking at ME!” crusade that has made Palin one very rich woman? Y’all know I’m in the latter camp. But that doesn’t preclude me from making a prediction. This cry for attention from Palin sets up the mother of all political showdowns between her and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). And in that fight, my money’s on Bachmann.
Remember, Palin isn’t running for president. The bus tour isn’t a sign. Neither is the new house in Arizona. Nor the rehires of old staff. The clearest sign that Palin isn’t running came from Fox News executive vice president of programming Bill Shine. “We are not changing Sarah Palin’s status,” he said yesterday. As Lawrence O’Donnell has been telling anyone who will listen, we’ve known as early as March 2 that Palin isn’t going to go for the Oval Office.
If anything, this is about Palin protecting her brand as the Republican field comes into focus. As the focus of the party faithful and the national spotlight on her diminishes, so does her bottom line. And like any true star she refuses to leave the stage without a fight. But she is fighting like a star on the political stage. Sooner or later, Palin is going to have to come to terms with the fact that since November 2008, the American people have been telling her in increasing numbers that they don’t want her in the White House.
This aggregate of polls of Palin’s favorability (more like unpopularity) shows why I think Bachmann wins in a political fight with Palin. While I believe Bachmann will indeed run for the Republican nomination for president, I don’t think she’s running with the expectation to win. As I’ve explained before, Bachmann is the Al Sharpton of the 2012 Republican field.
Like Sharpton, she would come to the race with an established base that feels that she’s the only one speaking for them. Like Sharpton, expectations for Bachmann will be low because of her penchant for uttering glassy-eyed nonsense. And like Sharpton, she can’t possibly believe that she can run away with the nomination.
There are three reasons why Bachmann will excel in that role in a way Palin never could. Bachmann is a sitting member of Congress. She is casting votes that will have an impact on real people. She is relentlessly on message, and her message is loaded with information (some of it false) and void of any extraneous blather Palin is known for. And Bachmann doesn’t hide behind Twitter, Fox News and Facebook. She willingly sits with interviewers she knows will hold her accountable. Not Palin. Even her “fire in my belly” declaration was said from her Fox News cocoon and to Greta Van Susteren, who is so close to Palin you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for a body person.
As The Post’s Dan Balz has reported, while the Republican Party faithful like Palin personally, they don’t see her in the White House. “I have tremendous respect for her,” Georgia Vincent told Balz back in February, “but I don't think that the presidency is where her talents could be best used.” Palin’s bus tour will demonstrate clearly where her talents are best used: in the service of Palin.