New Hampshire Tea Party rally: Palin writes the GOP's campaign theme.

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Sept. 5 2011 6:25 PM

I'm Still Here

Sarah Palin, still not running for president, writes the GOP's campaign theme for it.

MANCHESTER, N.H.—"As much as the media would try to ignore the fact," says Sarah Palin, "it was Tea Party Americans who won the November election!"

This is what the media ignoring the Tea Party looks like: Palin is speaking to a crowd of maybe 700 people. Every protester holding a reasonably witty or weird sign—or a sign with Sarah Palin's visage on it—is being interviewed by a reporter. There are at least 50 of us looking for quotes. CNN is taking the event live, and the Tea Party Express, which put on the event, is raffling tickets to the presidential debate it's going to co-sponsor in seven days with that network.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Sarah Palin addresses a Tea Party rally in Manchester, N.H., on Labor Day
Sarah Palin addresses a Tea Party rally in Manchester, N.H., on Labor Day

Palin can't acknowledge this. The media is still lying. It's still missing the point. The point is whatever she and Tea Party activists say it is.

"You already withstood the wrath, and the disdain, and the lies, from the media," says Palin, "and the permanent political class looking down on us, mocking us, makin' things up about us!"

Among the things we are making up, apparently, is a dispute between Palin and some fellow Republicans. You can see where we got the idea. On Saturday, with even more reporters in tow, Palin spoke in Indianola, Iowa, where some of her fans hoped she'd announce a presidential campaign. She didn't, but she did go after some of the Republicans who'd made the race.

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"Some GOP candidates also raised mammoth amounts of cash," she'd said in Iowa, "and we need to ask them, too: What, if anything, do their donors expect in return for their 'investments?' We need to know this because our country can't afford more trillion-dollar 'thank you' notes to campaign backers." She said something else that reporters—those mendacious ignore-ers of the Tea Party—had quoted all weekend. "It's not enough to just change up the uniform. If we don't change the team and the game plan, we won't save our country."

Today, a different take: "We patriots should not focus on petty political squabbles and media sound bites." Those sound bites! That media! What was their problem, anyway?

The people who showed up to see Palin were not checking her speech for consistency. They realized that they were watching someone who will never become president of the United States–sort of a departure in New Hampshire. The reasons they gave for that realization ranged from blaming the media, blaming Palin, or discovering that they liked some other candidates more than her. Like her, though, the media rage was most important. The press had ruined Palin's image in a way that it never would have, or could have, ruined Barack Obama's.

"I never thought George W. Bush was lying to me," says one activist, John Miller. "This guy, I feel like he's lying to me every time he talks." The media won't report the truth, he says, on stories like the EPA's implementation of cap and trade even after that legislation croaked in the Senate. (This isn't quite happening.)

Bill Hudak, a Republican candidate for Congress in Massachusetts, watches Palin closely and gets backstage to meet her when she finishes. When he ran in 2010, he says, he was pilloried by the media, so he gets what's happening to her.

"It's very personality-based with her," he says. "Liberals attack her because she's a threat."

True: Liberals attack Palin from every angle. She looks less like a candidate than she ever has, but she irritates them like no one else. A retiree named Jane Davis–she worked for Manchester's legendary Merrimack Diner before it shuttered–sidles up to me during the speech to inform me of how uncomfortable she is.

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