Is Sarah Palin getting in the way of Republican 2016 candidates?

Sarah Palin says she's 'seriously' considering a run in 2016. But she hasn't hired staff or raised big bucks, and an Iowa speech raises questions about whether she is serious.

Jim Young/Reuters
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday.

Is Sarah Palin getting in the way of Republicans who are more serious about running for president in 2016?

That’s certainly possible. She appeared in Iowa over the weekend at a big conservative convention and made a speech widely criticized as incoherent and rambling. Liberals were predictably gleeful about what they termed Ms. Palin’s "word salad." More interesting was the reaction of some conservative commentators, who complained that Palin’s (apparently) poor performance contrasted with and distracted from the polished presentations given by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and other GOP hopefuls.

For instance, John Fund of the right-leaning National Review listed Palin as one of the “losers” of the confab, the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“The former 2008 vice-presidential nominee told reporters last week that she was ‘seriously’ considering running in 2016. But her meandering and often bizarre 33-minute speech in Des Moines proved she wasn’t,” Mr. Fund wrote.

Let’s back up a bit here – last Thursday, Palin indeed told ABC News that “of course” she was interested in a presidential race. She was serving wild boar chili to the homeless at the time.

As we noted at the time, this got the typing fingers tingling on every political reporter in America. Oh, if only she would! But come on, it’s not happening. Palin hasn’t hired staff, raised big bucks, wooed local supporters, or made any other preliminary moves toward a presidential candidacy. It’s too late to just mull over a bid. The folks that are talking about making a decision – we’re looking at you, Jeb Bush – are already paddling hard under the surface.

By the way, Palin’s got a TV show that started a new season last week, “Amazing America with Sarah Palin." We’re sure that’s just a coincidence.

Then came Saturday’s speech. By most accounts, it didn’t go well. Palin appeared to ad lib the address – it’s possible her teleprompter malfunctioned.

First, she engaged in what conservative commentator Byron York of the Washington Examiner called an “extended stream of consciousness complaint” about her media coverage. Then she went on a “free association ramble” that linked Obama with Hillary Clinton, the energy industry, her daughter Bristol, and so on.

The person who preceded Palin – former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – gave a serious talk that left attendees wanting more, according to Mr. York. Palin didn’t.

“The experience leaves Iowa Republicans with a lot to think about,” York wrote. “Yes, Palin is still a draw. Yes, conservatives still empathize with her over the beating she took from the media in 2008. But if there is indeed nothing behind her ‘seriously interested’ talk – and it appears there is not – should she be included in events leading up to the 2016 caucuses?”

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