When Sarah Palin steps foot in Iowa later today, she’s going to place her toes directly into Iowa’s presidential waters. While she is here to take part in the premier of a new documentary that showcases her rise in American politics, the rest of the world is looking for any sign that she may enter the 2012 Republican presidential race.
Many people are split on whether or not she will seek the Republican nomination in 2012. For most of the past two years, I’ve come down on the side that she’s not running. That opinion was formed in large part because her previous Iowa itinerary has never lent itself to intermingling with Iowans.
Rubbing elbows with potential presidential candidates is something Iowans are used to. We like to get to know the candidates on a personal level, but thus far, there has been no opportunity for regular Iowans to spend time getting to know her. All of her appearances have either been large speaking events like the Iowa GOP’s Reagan Dinner, or book tour events, where only a limited number of people can participate.
That may change tonight when Palin is expected to mingle with a thousand or so folks from Pella at a cookout after the movie premier. I once said that I would take Palin seriously as a presidential candidate when she took Iowa seriously. With her recent knack of showing up in early caucus and primary states on the heels of the high-profile announcements of Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, I think it’s time to take her seriously.
To many, Palin’s visit to Pella seems too late to signal that she may enter the presidential race. Even though Palin hasn’t been to Iowa since last November, she’s had an unofficial presence in the state for months now. Led by Peter Singleton, a California native, a group of Palin supporters have traveled all across the state meeting with county Republican officials and other GOP activists.
Singleton insists that he has no connection to Palin, but one cannot overlook what he and the others who are touting Palin across the state have done for her in Iowa. Singleton has crisscrossed the state meeting with activists and operatives alike. I chatted with him months ago and came away impressed. His understanding of Iowa and the caucus process here is impressive for an outsider.
Singleton and his team of Palin organizers have personally met with most of the county GOP chairs across the state. That is something that none of the current presidential campaigns can say that they have done. Instead of selling Iowa activists on Palin, they instead make sure that people understand that there is a possibility that Palin will run.
The Palin organizers also soak up any Iowa political knowledge they can get. A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to a conservative breakfast club in western Iowa. After conversing with those in attendance for an hour or so, I noticed that one of the women was taking extensive notes. I was worried that I might have missed the fact that a reporter was present at the meeting. It wasn’t a reporter. It was a Palin organizer who I had yet to meet.
Even though Sarah Palin doesn’t play by the same rules that seem to govern the rest of the field of Republican candidates, she has developed an extensive ground game in Iowa, even if it’s not being officially coordinated by her or her advisors. In many ways, I think that Palin is probably more organized in Iowa in terms of grassroots communication than most of the current field.
We don’t know yet if Palin’s visit today is the precursor to a presidential campaign, but if it is, I would not be surprised. When I stopped at a café in Pella yesterday to interview Congressman Thaddeus McCotter who was driving through town on his way to a Tea Party event in Ottumwa, I noticed in the back of the café working away was the same woman who took such good notes of my conversation a few weeks ago. Soon thereafter, Singleton walked in, clearly in the midst of helping organize Palin’s visit.
If I’ve learned one thing during my political career, it’s that nothing is a coincidence in politics. Grassroots organizers, a movie premier, and a visit by Palin herself to Iowa makes this feel more like the start of presidential campaign than just a random visit. Who knows what to expect. I guess that’s why all the media keeps showing up to wherever she’s at.
TheIowaRepublican.com will have updates from Pella throughout the day. Check back often.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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