She came, she saw, and – as usual – Sarah Palin conquered her adoring audience of conservative voters and activists.
Saturday afternoon it was the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where Ms. Palin was the closing act in the three-day gathering that had just given Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky a solid win – for the second year in a row – in its presidential straw poll.
“No, you can’t log onto the website,” Palin said, referencing the disastrous rollout of Obamacare. “No you can’t keep your health care. No, you can’t make a phone call without Michelle Obama knowing this is the third time this week you dialed Pizza Hut delivery.”
On Ukraine, she echoed the National Rifle Association’s position on individual gun ownership: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”
She praised tea party favorites in the US Senate – Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, who’ve been burrs under the saddles of GOP leaders – saying, “It’s time we sent them reinforcements.”
There’s no doubt that Palin has been a political phenomenon these past five years.
She came from political obscurity as governor of a state with a population smaller than Fresno County, Calif. Was picked by Sen. John McCain – in what seemed to be a Hail Mary pass (or act of desperation) – to be the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket. Quit her job as governor of Alaska to become a Fox News commentator and (briefly) the star of her own reality TV show.
Above all, she has been the main face and voice of the tea party insurgency, much in demand as a speaker whose aim is to rouse the movement – largely by hammering President Obama and the “lamestream” media.
She has her own political action committee (“SarahPac”) raising money for conservative candidates, and supporters created a “Sarah Palin for President 2016” Facebook page. Chants of “Run, Sarah, Run!” punctuated her CPAC speech. Her Twitter account has more than one million followers, and her Facebook page has more than four million “likes.”
As usual, Palin is coy about her own plans. Asked by Fox News host Greta Van Susteren if it’s “still within a possibility” that she might make a presidential run in 2016, Palin said:
“It depends on what it is that Americans really, really want in a candidate. If they want a fighter, if they want someone who can so respect our exceptionalism, everything that makes America great, the promise of America. And if we don't find that, then I would run.”
AARP – one of Washington’s venerable lobbying groups – recently noted that Palin had turned 50, making her eligible for membership.
To note the occasion, AARP posted “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sarah Palin.” Here they are:
1. Though one of Alaska’s most famous residents, Palin was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, on the same day in 1964 that the Beatles gave their first live U.S. concert in Washington, DC. She moved to Skagway, Alaska, with her parents when she was three months old.
2. According to Palin biographer Lorenzo Benet, her father, Charles R. “Chuck” Heath, played running back on his high school football team in Idaho, where future Green Bay Packers star Jerry Kramer blocked for him. Kramer was a big supporter of Palin during her vice presidential run.
3. When Palin was growing up in Alaska, her parents limited her TV watching by keeping the set in a room that was heated only by a wood stove, which she and her three siblings had to load to stay warm. As a result, “we never watched much TV,” she once told an interviewer.
4. Her first job as a teenager was at Ferina’s ice cream store in Wasilla. She also waited tables at a bar in the fishing village of Dillingham. As she told Esquire magazine in 2009: “Serving people, you learn patience. When someone’s mad at you ’cause you’re not serving them in the manner that they want to be served, you’ve gotta be tempered and graceful.”
5. She wore number 22 when she played point guard for the Wasilla Warriors, who won the Alaska state basketball championship in 1982.
6. At age 24, she eloped with her boyfriend, Todd Palin, and got married at the county courthouse in Palmer, according to a 2008 Anchorage Daily News profile. By Palin’s account, the couple eloped because they didn’t want their parents to have to foot the bill for their wedding. For witnesses, they enlisted two residents of an assisted living facility across the street.
7. At age 20, she won the Wasilla beauty pageant and was named Miss Congeniality, according to a 2008 Time profile.
8. Palin told Esquire that she wanted to be an ESPN sportscaster “until I learned that I’d have to move to Bristol, Conn. It was too far away.” Instead, after graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Idaho in 1987, she worked as a sportscaster for two TV stations in Anchorage, and for a newspaper, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.
9. Palin told Esquire in 2009 that wearing fleece and drinking skinny white-chocolate mochas were her favorite ways to stay warm on cold days.
10. Today, February 11th, is Sarah Palin’s 50th Birthday – meaning she is now eligible for membership in AARP.