Sarah Palin’s trip to Iowa on Tuesday to attend the premiere of a documentary about her, “The Undefeated,” has sparked a predictable frenzy among the chattering class. Will the ex-Alaska governor finally declare herself a candidate for president?
Well, maybe that will happen. “The Undefeated” is a pretty positive film, depicting Ms. Palin as a bipartisan problem-solver. A surprise kickoff announcement after the screening of what is in essence a campaign bio flick would be a dramatic way for Palin to get into the race.
But Palin’s trip to Iowa most likely is just Hawkeye State tourism, or general Palin brand-building. Apparently she is not even confabbing with state GOP leaders to gauge possible support during her short stay.
She might announce the next round of stops for her One Nation bus tour while in Iowa. This wandering family vacation has been on hold – Palin herself blames this on the fact that she was called for jury duty in Alaska. But whatever happens after the film premiere at the Pella, Iowa, opera house, is time now a wasting? Is it getting to be too late for Palin to run?
We know, the question seems absurd – real voting doesn’t start until next year. But as we’ve noted previously, it gets late early in presidential nomination politics. On average, winning candidates have declared their intentions by the middle of July in the year prior to the election.
After all, Ms. Bachmann has zoomed to a tie for first place in the Des Moines Register’s recent poll of Iowa Republicans’ preferences. She’s a tea party favorite and gadfly to the establishment, just like Palin. It’s possible she’s winning over Palin’s potential voters.
In addition, Palin’s unfavorable rating just keeps getting worse. Almost 60 percent of US voters overall have a negative view of her – a very high hurdle that she’d have to overcome to actually win the White House.
If Palin were a conventional politician, all this bad news might mean that yes, her moment has passed. But she is far from conventional. She retains a core of devoted supporters, as seen in her Gallup Positive Intensity Score, her favorable rating minus her unfavorable numbers. That is 17, which puts her just ahead of front-runner Mitt Romney. (It lags behind Michele Bachmann, however.)
Palin could raise all the money she wanted in a short period of time. She most likely would attract top staff talent the moment she said “yes.” She has perfected the art of media management via social networking sites – communicating what she wants to say in Facebook and Twitter bursts.
And she’s still famous. Yes, Ms. Bachmann is hot at the moment. But if you compare “Sarah Palin” with “Michele Bachmann” on Google Trends, to find out which search term attracts more Web traffic, Palin wins. By a long shot.
Bachmann had a big Web search day in the middle of June following her performance in a GOP debate in New Hampshire. But overall, if you look at the past 30 days in the United States, Palin’s Web search traffic is three times larger than that of Bachmann, and four times larger than that of Mr. Romney.