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March 3rd, 2011

I’ll get serious about Sarah Palin when she gets serious about Iowa.

By Craig Robinson

It seems that an article that appeared on this past Tuesday has ruffled the feathers of a few Sarah Palin supporters.  This group of Palin fanatics includes by friend Shane Vander Hart.  Shane finds it necessary to try and discredit anything that might be construed as being negative towards the former Alaskan Governor.

I admire Shane’s steadfast support and fascination with everything Palin, but his insistence that the recent group of Iowa caucus goers that assembled for David Lightman of McClatchy newspapers is some sort of conspiracy against Palin is complete nonsense.

As the Political Director for the Republican Party of Iowa during the last presidential caucus cycle, I talked to numerous reporters and provided them names of Republican activists that they should talk to if they are interested really understanding the lay of the land in Iowa.  I think this is an important role for an Iowan like me to play.  Helping the national media see and report how seriously Iowans take their role in vetting candidates helps keep us first in the nation.  In addition to helping Lightman talk to a group of Republican caucus goers in central Iowa, I’ve provided similar information to the Des Moines Register, Fox News, and other media outlets.

I know that Sarah Palin’s shtick is to use traditional media as her foil.  By the way, I’m guilty of doing this on occasion myself, but discounting what actual Iowans have to say because you don’t like the conclusion they came to, seems a little immature or self-centered if you ask me.

Reporters like Lightman could have easily stayed in the comfort of their own offices on the coast.  He could have written the story he did without traveling to Iowa.  I think it’s important that these national reporters do travel here, and I also thought it was good that Lightman traveled to Iowa not to attend an event with a candidate, but instead, just to talk to caucus goers.  That’s not something that should be criticized.  In fact. it should be praised.

I can still remember receiving a call for a reporter from the L.A. Times in 2007.    He was traveling to Iowa to attend an event in Des Moines where all the candidates were going to speak.  This reporter also wanted to attend some other events and asked me who was going to be where.  I told him that Huckabee and Brownback were going to be in Warren County.  I told him where Tancredo and other candidates were going to be at as well.

He was put out when I told him that John McCain was going to be in Council Bluffs and Mitt Romney was going to be in Dubuque, because that was too far for him to travel.  I remember asking him what’s wrong with covering Huckabee. He laughed and told me Huckabee wasn’t going to win.  I told him I would be so quick to write off a candidate like Huckabee.

I had numerous instances like this with the media while at the Republican Party of Iowa.  In each instance, I encouraged the reporters to not just attend events in Des Moines or follow the national frontrunners when they were in Iowa because they might be missing the biggest story of the Iowa caucuses.  I want every angle of the caucuses to be covered, not just who the national media is currently obsessed with at the moment.  That is why I will continue to help any reporter who wants to take the time to come here and talk to Iowans, not just pontificate what they think Iowans believe.

The small group of people that gathered to discuss 2012 and federal spending was just one group that Lightman met with across the state.  His questions were fair, and while Palin supporters like Shane are offended by what these people had to say about their candidate, he was just there to listen and observe how they actually responded to the questions.

While the group didn’t think that Palin was electable, they were not mean spirited when they gave their opinion about her.  The group simply didn’t think she was “presidential.”  It was also very clear that the group is looking for a strong leader, and nobody yet measures up to their expectations in that regard.

I also think that, while Palin supporters are quick to dismiss any and all negative stories about her, there is plenty of evidence that shows she has some huge weaknesses as a candidate.  Where I agree with Shane is that the Des Moines Register’s poll on her favorability is worthless because of the small sample size and high margin of error.  However, just because one poll is poorly done doesn’t discount every poll that show’s Palin is in trouble Iowa.

Last July, commissioned two statewide polls in conjunction with Concordia Group LLC, an Iowa based public affairs company. The poll was conducted by Voter/Consumer Research, a highly respected polling firm based in Washington D.C.  All interviews were conducted via telephone with trained interviewers at Voter/Consumer Research’s phone center in Houston, Texas, between July 25th and July 28th.  The general election poll had a sample size of 500, and a margin of error of 4.39%.  The Republican caucus polls have a sample size of 399 and a margin of error of 4.91%.  Below are some of the findings.

Only 37 percent of the Iowans polled had a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin, while 57 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the former Alaska governor. Palin’s unfavorable number was actually six percent higher than Governor Chet Culver’s.

Making matters worse for Palin is that the poll shows that, of the 57 percent who have an unfavorable view of her, 41 percent of them strongly hold that position. The entire breakdown of her numbers is 16 percent strongly favorable, 21 percent somewhat favorable, 17 percent somewhat unfavorable, and 41 percent strongly unfavorable.

When compared to other potential 2012 Republican candidates, you can see just how much work Palin will have to do to be competitive in the Iowa.  Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Caucuses in 2008, has a 48 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable rating.  Mitt Romney, who finished second in Iowa, has a 44 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable rating.  Palin was the only potential candidate that was polled who had a higher unfavorable rating than favorable rating.

The poll also discovered more bad news for Palin when it tested how some of the potential Republican candidates would fair against President Obama in a head-to-head match up.  In the generic head-to-head question, the Republican candidate beat President Obama 45 percent to 38 percent.

Out of the six candidates that were included in our head-to-head poll verses Obama, only two of them, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, came out on top.  In a head-to-head matchup with President Obama, Obama crushed Palin 53 percent to 36 percent.

When polled against other potential 2012 presidential candidates, Palin came in fourth, with 11 percent.  She finished behind Huckabee, Romney, and Newt Gingrich. (Only Republicans were polled)

I know that people will discount the results of this poll because it was conducted in late July of 2010, but the results hold up when compared to other more recent polls.

Head-to-Head Polls vs. Obama

Public Policy Polling (February 16)
Obama 52, Palin 40

Fox News (February 11)
Obama 56, Palin 35

Rassmussen (February 7)
Obama 49, Palin 38

Sarah Palin has never led a national or Iowa presidential poll.  In the Public Policy Polling Iowa poll from January, Palin garnered 15% of the vote, behind Huckabee and Romney.  All of these polls validate the findings of the July 2010 TIR poll.

The one thing for all the Palin supporters to remember is that, if she can’t make it in Iowa, she is not going to make it anywhere else.  Iowa is ideal for a Palin candidacy, but thus far, she seems to be afraid of the process here.  Besides a few book signings, Palin has done nothing in the state but hang out in the Savory Hotel in downtown Des Moines for an entire day before speaking at the Republican Party of Iowa fundraiser.

The Sarah Palin fan club needs to realize that it takes more to run for president than just posting things or endorsing candidates via Facebook.  If she is considering running for President, she has a ton of work to do in a state like Iowa.  At her current rate, she’s going to make Fred Thompson’s 2008 Iowa campaign look like a well-oiled machine.

I’ll get serious about a Sarah Palin presidential run when she gets serious about Iowa.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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