Sarah Palin tips her hand

Bart Marcois Public Affairs Consultant
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Has Sarah Palin just announced her candidacy for president? On Wednesday night she told Fox Business host Eric Bolling that she still has the fire in her belly and is still game to run for office. More telling, however, is what she said about the current GOP nomination battle and the possibility of a brokered convention.

Palin’s comments leading into the South Carolina primary, encouraging people to vote for Newt Gingrich because the party is strengthened by a long primary battle, were bewildering at the time.

“I want to see this thing continue, because iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel. If I had to vote in South Carolina to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt and I would want this to continue.”

Leaving aside metallurgical analysis comparing honing knife blades to the hammer blows of negative campaign ads, the comments were incomprehensible from a strategic point of view. Gingrich at that time was administering a beating to the entire capitalist system, with his attacks on Romney’s wealth and the investment world. It was not clear how that process would help any eventual Republican nominee run against the class-warfare campaign sure to come from President Obama.

After Newt lost Florida by 15 points, Governor Palin announced that she would vote for him in Nevada, again “to keep this thing going.” Even while admitting that the process “thus far, hasn’t been really attractive to the electorate” and saying about negative ads that “when a bell is rung, it’s really tough to un-ring that bell,” she still wanted it to continue.

Why would she want the process to continue if it is causing permanent harm to the Republican candidates?

On the Fox Business Network Wednesday night, Bolling asked Palin about the possibility of a brokered convention, and whether, if asked, she would consider being drafted to be the nominee. She responded: “We could be looking at a brokered convention. … If months from now, if that’s the case, then all bets are off, as to who it will be, willing to offer themselves up in the name of service to their country. I, uh, I would do whatever I could to help.”

It’s becoming clear why Governor Palin wants the nominating process to continue, even though it’s really tough to un-ring the bell of a process that turns off voters. She has no interest in seeing any candidate gain the support of the majority of the GOP delegates, because she believes she could step into a brokered convention and walk out as the Republican nominee. She shares with Gingrich an ability to fire up the base, to draw admiring shouts and standing ovations from audience members. She also shares with him a disdain for conventional campaigning, which critics call a lack of discipline. Those characteristics are ideally suited to winning an election process that lasts only three days and takes place in a single city, but they are liabilities in a process that takes months and covers 50 states.

Palin just gave the clearest signal yet that she intends to compete for the presidential nomination if there’s a brokered convention in August. What is a Republican voter to do? Whatever it is, the voters in Michigan, Arizona and the Super Tuesday states had better start doing it right away. Because if we don’t, we will miss the only chance we have to stop socialized health care and a host of other evils that would result from a second term for Barack Obama.

Bart Marcois, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of energy, is senior vice president at Policy Impact Communication.