Palin, From Contender to Kingmaker

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 2 2011 1:20 PM

Palin, From Contender to Kingmaker

John Fund predicts that Sarah Palin will pass on a presidential race and endorse Rick Perry, based on her friendship with Perry -- remember, she was speaking in his state when her water broke -- and this:

Last year, she told Greta van Susteran of Fox News that the major reason she might run would be “if nobody else were to step up with the solutions that are needed” to set the country right. “But I also know that anybody – anybody – can make a huge difference in this country, without a title, without an office, just being out there as an advocate for solutions that can work to get the country on the right track. And that’s where I am now.” Doesn’t that pretty much describe what Sarah Palin has been doing the last year, fueled with celebrity-infused brio?
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It does! There are at least two other plusses.

1) Palin often comes in to bat clean-up after conservatives have put a victory within reach. Sometimes she's way ahead of the game, as she was when she endorsed Doug Hoffman, the third party candidate, in the 2009 NY-26 special election. But sometimes she realizes that the media will go googly-eyed over whatever she does. So she endorses Nikki Haley as she's surging and -- lo and behold -- Nikki Haley becomes known as one of the "mama grizzlies" Palin picked herself. Obviously, she helped Haley tremendously, but so did Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford, who got credit only among political junkies.

2) If we buy the Palin-Bachmann rivalry story, Palin's got to love how endorsing Perry accelerates Bachmann's collapse. As soon as Perry got it, in was clear that Bachmann, who appeals to the same voters but has no executive experience, had no real path to victory. But if Palin backs Perry, the catfight-crazed media will report the "Bachmann snub!" angle; it will become part of the story of how Bachmann fell. The hard-charging congresswoman, the first female winner of the Ames straw poll, declines to her rightful status as a Palin-lite; Palin, who will have just acknowledged that she can't win a primary on her own, will be seen as a kingmaker.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.