She will get to New Hampshire, whose political significance is well-known, late in the week. But this is not, she has insisted, a political campaign. Still, the trip has renewed speculation that she could be heading in that direction, though no one but Palin and her husband, Todd, may know the real answer.
Those who have campaign experience say her unorthodox approach is a non-starter. Three senior Republican strategists dismissed the idea that the tour Palin and her family are on could be a prototype for a campaign. One called it “an ill-conceived” venture, and another said that although it gives Palin publicity without real scrutiny, it would not work for a candidate.
Palin wouldn’t have it any other way. No one enjoys tweaking the politico-media establishment more than the former Alaska governor, who believes she has been scorned and ridiculed by that establishment throughout her political career. In that context, running for president would be the ultimate antiestablishment act by the nation’s most unpredictable politician.
Of course, no one knows whether the bus tour is designed to lead to a candidacy or is just another way for Palin to capitalize on her celebrity. She has played that card repeatedly, and with considerable success, to enhance her personal brand, if not her political standing.
She manages to keep speculation about a 2012 presidential run alive through the most slender of hints. She has indicated that a future tour may take her to Iowa. Don’t be surprised if South Carolina pops up on her map at some point in coming weeks. Those stops alone would feed the story line that she might just possibly be thinking about considering whether to get serious about exploring a candidacy.
If nothing else, she has mastered the art of playing the media. She spent the holiday weekend in a game of cat-and-mouse with reporters, refusing to issue a schedule of her stops at historic sights. She spoke to reporters in Gettysburg on Monday night. She then ducked the media there Tuesday morning. She says she wants reporters to have to work a little to figure things out.
“I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media,” she told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician.”
The next stops on Palin’s tour include the Statue of Liberty, any number of places in Boston and then New Hampshire — but just when and where and where else is anybody’s guess.
But on a weekend when other real or likely Republican candidates were campaigning, she still drew the most attention. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was in Iowa on Monday and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was in New Hampshire. Palin overshadowed both, at least in media coverage. On Thursday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will formally announce his campaign. That will draw a crowd. Until then, Palin is taking up everyone’s space.