It was a meeting of minds, of sorts: Sarah Palin, the erstwhile governor of Alaska and reality TV star, and Donald Trump, the star of Celebrity Apprentice and some sort of businessman, sat down for a slice of pepperoni pizza on Tuesday at Famous Famiglia in Times Square. This was no casual slice: “The meeting of the GOP’s two flashiest and savviest media manipulators – both reality TV stars – caused a predictable press frenzy and sparked wild speculation about a Palin-Trump ticket,” Fox Nation observed.
Trump, who last month bowed out of the potential presidential race, told reporters that Palin did not ask him to run as her vice president, but added, “I’ll tell you, she’s a terrific woman.” Of course, Palin herself has yet to declare whether she’ll be running for the Republican nomination, so this particular piece of political theatre appeared to be just that – theatre.
The meeting with Trump was just one stop on Palin’s Magical Mystery Tour and was very much in keeping with the tenor of Palin’s will-she or won’t-she flirtation with presidential campaigning. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Palin embarked on a bus tour of America’s patriotic sites – but refused to tell any one where she would be and when. That, like the meeting with Trump, also sent the watching media into a frenzy of speculation: Why wouldn’t she tell anyone where she’s going? Is she (successfully) trying to inflate the speculation about her potential run? Is she just trying to mess with the “lamestream” media? Is anyone behind the wheel here?
A bit of background: Palin has in the past made a lot of presidential noises, but as it got closer to crunch time and other candidates officially cast their lot, she seemed to quiet down. That sat well with Republicans strategists, who thought that a Palin run could only end in tears and distract attention from real candidates. Now, however, it appears that Palin was in political remission only to come blasting back on the scene – she’s even got her own movie. Always the element of surprise with this one.
- Surrealism on the pretend campaign trail. At most of the stops that she made on the tour, Palin told press and her supporters that she was still considering a run. But, Shushannah Walshe noted at The Daily Beast, “Tuesday night’s dinner with Trump offers some fodder to detractors who say she’s just grabbing the spotlight to burnish her celebrity brand.” Whatever Palin decides, the “reality-star summit will go down as one of the more surreal moments of 2012 presidential politics.”
- Palin Trump? Not a good idea. Setting aside the idea that Tuesday Palin-Trump pizza dinner was just press-baiting spectacle, Alex Moore at Death and Taxes took a look at the reality TV power couple pairing. “By casting her lot in with The Donald, Palin is likely betting that her abandoned governorship gives her the requisite resume experience, and that The Donald’s fame and charisma—as well as his leftover relevance with those still hooked on Birtherism—will give her the edge she needs. In reality, Palin is her own edge. What she needs—and needs desperately—in a running mate is experience. Unfortunately for her there appears to be a deficit of credible experience among GOP candidates.” Ultimately, Moore determined, “teaming up with The Donald is probably a bad alliance.”
- This is her moment. It’s not only the mounting tension that could fuel a Palin run, Peter Beinart noted at The Daily Beast – it’s the timing. “There will be never be a better moment,” he said, explaining that a conventional candidate would probably retrench, get some solid experience under his or her belt, and wait until 2016, but Palin is not that kind of candidate. And with Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee and John Thune all out of the race, and minor players Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum just flirting with national recognition, Palin is poised to snap up the social conservative vote. Then there’s the Tea Party: Invoking the ghosts of other “unelectable” nominations Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, Beinart noted that both those candidates scored their nominations “at moments when traditional party elites were being disempowered by a cadre of ideologically zealous activists, as the Tea Party is doing in the Republican Party today.” This is Palin’s moment, should she choose to accept it.
- Do not underestimate the power of Palin. Just about a year ago, Roger Simon at Politico predicted that Palin could be the Republican nominee for president and was widely mocked. “I hate to say I told you so. No, that’s a lie. I love to say I told you so. I just don’t get to do it very often,” he gloated. Palin is playing a subtle game and the media she’s generated with her bus tour has been significant. Observed Simon, “On NBC’s Meet the Press With David Gregory on Sunday, New York Times columnist David Brooks dismissed Palin by saying that “running for president is not American Idol. And I think people may agree with her, they may like her, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for her.’ Brooks may be right. People might decide to vote for a candidate they don’t agree with and don’t like. It doesn’t happen very often, but I suppose it could happen this time. After all, Mitt Romney is running this time.” So just to repeat, “Sarah Palin can be the Republican nominee in 2012. I am not saying she will be, but she can be. Those who underestimate her do so at their own risk.”
- Stop reading the Palin tea leaves. Of course, other critics will dismiss her: “I’m not sure why Palin’s plans – the bus tour, the movie – and pronouncements get covered and parsed like the Talmud as opposed to like the offhand remarks of someone doing this on the fly. There’s really no evidence at all that she has a plan,” complained Ben Smith at Politico.
- Just stop Palin. While Palin continues to flirt with the media and the notion of running for the Republican nomination, her critics are already amassing their troops to stop her from even considering it. Impalin.com is a site dedicated to “Impalin’ the Palin pick and the untrustworthy McCain”, while PalinAsPresident.us offers a Photoshopped vision of the Oval Office with Palin in it (think Maverick poster on the wall and a copy of Science magazine in the trash).
- Oh, who cares? “It’s a safe bet that Ms Palin will be playing the ‘will she/won’t she’ game as far as the elastic will stretch without breaking. But actually the elastic is already broken. It’s also safe to say that Ms Palin will never be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, however much the Obamians yearn to have her to kick around until November 2012,” declared Alexander Cockburn at FirstPost.co.uk. But the Republican Party has larger woes than who to put up in 2012: Its internal battles with the Tea Party are divisive and the disappointment with Republican Senator Paul Ryan of Wisconsin’s budget blueprint, essentially privatizing Medicare, are putting the party in the unenviable position of having to explain why they want senior citizens to pay more money just for the privilege of staying alive.
More on the scattered Republican field: