The unorthodoxy of Sarah Palin

at 08:02 AM ET, 05/31/2011


Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s Memorial Day weekend bus trip has been defined by its unpredictability. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Unorthodox, thy name is Sarah Palin.

The former Alaska governor, who is known for her unconventional approach to politics, outdid even herself with a bus tour over Memorial Day weekend.

The trip, which was announced via her political action committee website Thursday, resembled nothing so much as an episode of “Amazing Race” — a helter-skelter series of stops at historical sites with little (if any) advance notice given of her plans.

The lack of details left reporters confused and scrambling, and the political world wondering just what she was up to. Which is, of course, exactly how Palin likes it.

Asked about a potential 2012 campaign on Sunday night, Palin said “it would definitely be non-conventional and untraditional,” a comment that amounts to the political understatement of the year.

Palin added in an interview with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren (one of her go-to members of the mainstream media): “I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media ... I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop’s going to be.”

The bus trip proved what most political observers already knew about Palin.

First, she has the ability to draw crowds — and excitement — like no one else currently in the Republican presidential field. Wherever Palin goes, crowds flock. The ability to generate organic excitement is a quality not to be underestimated in the context of a political canpaign.

Second, Palin revels in end-running — or ignoring altogether — the mainstream media. Any other potential presidential candidate planning a week-long bus trip would not only release the specifics of where and when he or she was stopping but would also ensure access to the candidate for reporters following along.

Not Palin. She communicated her whereabouts almost exclusively via her PAC website, forcing reporters to rely primarily on rumor to determine what her next stop might be. When reporters tracked her down, she talked to them. But tracking her down wasn’t easy.

What the first days of her bus trip proved then was that if Palin does run, she will do it in a manner consistent with the way she has approached political life since she and Arizona Sen. John McCain lost the 2008 presidential race.

Instead of communicating via the media, Palin will use her massive Internet and social media presence to push her message out. Rather than a regimented schedule of travel to early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Palin seems likely to opt for a more fluid schedule that allows for surprise drop-ins on average Americans.

No presidential campaign in the modern era has been run in such a manner and succeeded. Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson sought to minimize his travel to early states and focus on communicating with voters through cable televison and web videos. He didn’t win a single primary or caucus.

But Palin’s star shines brighter than Thompson’s. And her conviction about the country and the way in which campaigns can work runs deep.

But star power and conviction alone have never been enough to win over voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. What]s clear from her bus tour, though, is that if Palin runs for president, she’ll do it one and one way only: hers.

Foreign policy boosts Obama: President Obama’s approval rating keeps rising, and it’s largely thanks to his strength on foreign policy.

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Obama’s approval rising to 54 percent, continuing a steady climb since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

When you look at specific issues, though, Obama continues to be bouyed by foreign policy, with less support for his economic policies. In fact, of the three areas where Obama’s approval is above 50 percent — terrorism, Afghanistan and Iraq — all are foreign policy-related.

Weiner lawyers up: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) is seeking the advice of counsel after claiming this weekend that his Twitter account was hacked.

Weiner’s account sent a tweet Friday that linked to a lewd picture to a young woman in Seattle. Weiner says it was the work of hackers, and the young woman in Seattle says she has never met Weiner and has beat back suggestions from those on the right that she and Weiner might have had an inappropriate relationship.

On Monday, Weiner’s spokesman told the New York Daily News that he has retained a lawyer to see if civil or criminal actions could be pursued against the alleged hacker.

GOP kicks off debt limit debate: The debt limit debate is set to begin in earnest, as House Republicans are set to vote today on the president’s request to raise the debt limit beyond the current $14.3 trillion.

Republicans are taking the symbolic vote — the measure is almost certain to fail — to show how little support there will be for raising the debt limit without coinciding cuts to the budget, even among Democrats.

All members of the House GOP caucus will meet with Obama on Wednesday for a discussion on the debt limit.

Fixbits:

Outspoken freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) says Obama was elected because he is black.

Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) will make a decision “soon” on whether to seek a rematch with Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R).

The Illinois state House on Monday passed an aggressive new congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Democrats. The state Senate is up next.

Some conservatives are trying to draft Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) into the presidential race.

Must-reads:

How the GOP could rescue Medicare reform” — Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

Just who is Herman Cain? And what does his presidential run mean for the GOP?” — Jason Horowitz, The Washington Post

Romney and health care: In the thick of history” — Brian C. Mooney, Boston Globe

GOP presidential contenders drift to the right” — AP

The upside of GOP despair” — Andrew Romano, Newsweek

Who said that? Dems and GOP display dizzying shift on Medicare rhetoric” — Julian Pecquet and Jamie Klatell, The Hill

 
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