Thursday, October 21, 2010

Palin Stories

There's a fascinating Jonathan Martin story about Sarah Palin over at Politco today.  Here's the gist of it:
The election is two weeks away, but the campaign trail reviews of Sarah Palin already are in, and they aren’t pretty.

According to multiple Republican campaign sources, the former Alaska governor wreaks havoc on campaign logistics and planning. She offers little notice about her availability, refuses to do certain events, is obsessive about press coverage and sometimes backs out with as little lead time as she gave in the first place. 

In short, her seat-of-the-pants operation can be a nightmare to deal with...
OK.  What are we (that is, we the political observers -- in particular, those of us interested in 2012, and who believe that Palin is a legit contender, neither a shoe-in nor an impossibility for the GOP nomination) to make of stories like this?  How should one read Politico?

The first order of business is to see if there's any meat to the story.  I think it passes the test.  There are quite a few anecdotes reported, and they do a good job of supporting the thesis that Palin's operation is still amateur hour.  What I thought was pretty good was that Martin avoids gender stereotypes -- he doesn't portray Palin as a diva, but just as someone who needs a few more seasoned operatives.  

There's also a believable (which doesn't mean it's true!) theory of why she runs things the way that she does: she's obsessed with loyalty, and would rather sacrifice efficiency in her camp than risk letting in someone who will sell her out.  Given her experience with McCain-supplied campaign professionals, that's not all that surprising; given her experiences over the last couple years, it's easy to imagine that from her perspective everything seems to be running exceptionally well, reinforcing her impulse to trust her own judgment rather than that of Washingtonians who dismissed her in 2008 and since.

So at face value, it's an interesting and plausible story, reinforcing the idea that there's quite some question as to whether the Sage of Wasilla will be willing and able to do the sort of things that candidates for major party nominations have always had to do.

Now, take a step back.  Why are Republican operatives feeding negative stories about Palin to Politico two weeks before the midterm elections?  I certainly don't know, but that's my first reaction when I read the story.  Are they trying to deflate her as a 2012 contender?  If so, is it because other candidates have friends around the country?  Could be.  Is it because many GOP insiders read the polls, and think she's poison for the party?  Could be.  Is it because Republicans are at heart hierarchical and traditional, and just really can't stomach this crazy person...ahem, this crazy woman, from nowheresville, who just doesn't look like what they think a President of the United States should look?  I don't know.  I thought it was certainly very interesting that Chuck Grassley's campaign was identified by name; Grassley has an easy reelection bid right now and doesn't have to face a primary for six years, so he's pretty safe from retribution, and he may be reminding not just Palin but all prospective candidates to pay proper fealty to him as the caucuses approach.  Don't forget the obvious possibility that perhaps it's just straightforward: she really does have an incompetent operation, which has repeatedly burned and angered so many people that it's produced a subset willing to talk to a good, aggressive, reporter.  Again, could be.

The point is that when reading these stories, always think about why people talk to reporters, and why these particular sources talked to this reporter about this particular topic.  

Another step back.  Why is Politico doing the story, in the first place?  Well, that's an easy one: Palin, we all know, sells.  I don't really know why, but I do know it's true.  So when reading Martin's story I want to ask myself again: is this really news?  If Romney or Pawlenty's operations had similar logistics troubles, would I be hearing about it?  Would I be hearing the same things about it? 

As with questions about sources, I don't really have answers to the questions about the reporter or Politico itself, other than just to remind myself as I read it that there's a serious, heavy, media bias in favor of seeking out and running stories about Sarah Palin.  Every gaffe, every mix-up, every good line, has a good chance of being reported.  As observers, we need to remember that, and be aware of what it does to our perceptions of her compared to our perceptions of the other candidates.


  1. One thing that I've seen consistently with Palin, going back to her VP barnstorming but clearly as bad or worse since, is her total disinterest in ingratiating herself with key local Republicans. It was shockingly clear in New Hampshire, where (as w/ Grassley) those local officeholders and top influencers are accustomed to far different. She wouldn't do even the easy things, that cost her nothing, to gain goodwill.

    Doesn't necessarily mean she's not interested in running for President -- just that, as in other ways, she's not doing it in the normal ways everyone else is.

  2. Meanwhile nobody knows a damned thing about Ron Johnson vs Russ Feingold - actually a rather important race.

    Why, oh why can't we have a better press corps?


  3. The Martin article may also reflect a desire to get out ahead of the spin on Who Gets Credit for GOP Wins. I bet a lot of Republican operatives and their candidates don't want to hear non-stop coverage of the Palin-effect on election night.

  4. SRLC CEO Responds to Politico Hit Piece on Governor Palin

    An article in today’s Politico discusses Governor Palin’s efforts to help elect Republican candidates across the country.

    I get a lot of calls/questions about Governor Palin since the 2010 SRLC, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to make a quick comment.

    As most of you know the 2010 SRLC was the largest Republican Leadership Conference in over 30 years - with more speakers, more press and more attendees than ever before.

    I interacted with every major GOP personality in the country leading up to the conference and can tell you first hand that the only thing different about Governor Palin was the intensity of the interest from the attendees, sponsors and even other speakers.

    Governor Palin’s staff was incredibly easy to deal with and very professional.

    She’s easily the most requested surrogate our party has and it’s a shame that Republicans would rather gripe that they can’t get more of her time instead of being appreciative of everything that she does do.

    Charlie Davis
    President and CEO
    2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference

    Deputy Chairman
    Republican Party of Louisiana

  5. Mark Levin Demands Retraction By Politico Concerning Palin Hit Piece

    Conservative talk show host Mark Levin on Thursday demanded a retraction by Politico concerning statements made in Jonathan Martin's hit piece of the former Alaska Governor entitled "Hurricane Sarah."

    In a Facebook posting, Levin said Martin's claim that Palin "backed out of planned interviews with conservative talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin the morning she was scheduled to talk to them" is "a flat out lie":

    This is a flat out lie. Sarah Palin never backed out of any interview with me. Period. And John Martin, the reporter, never contacted me to ask me directly. I insist on a retraction.

    Read more:

  6. Shane Vander Hart: Grassley & King Camps Confirm Jonathan Martin "is Full of Crap"

    I don’t even want to waste my time addressing everything that is wrong with Jonathan Martin’s hit piece at POLITICO regarding Sarah Palin on the campaign trail posted this morning. He loves his anonymous sources… just so everybody knows where I stand.
    First, I think campaign anonymous sources are vile, spineless creatures who should be forever shunned from campaign work.
    And secondly, I think that Jonathan Martin is more often than not full of crap.
    Eric Woolson, spokesperson for Senator Chuck Grassley’s campaign, for the record said, that the anonymous source “does not represent the Senator’s views.” So evidently Senator Grassley was not displeased with any interaction they had with the Palin camp.
    Then regarding what Martin said about Congressman Steve King’s campaign:

    Similarly, the Iowa GOP was in discussions with Palin’s camp leading up to her appearance at its fundraiser to have her do a rally in the state’s conservative northwest corner. Rep. Steve King, who represents the area, got involved, and Palin indicated she was open to it. But she never gave the party confirmation. Finally, on the Wednesday before what would have been a Friday event, she indicated that she wouldn’t do it.

    I have yet to contact the Iowa GOP and will follow-up, but I did talk with Jeff King with Congressman King’s campaign. He said that they “didn’t have any inkling that we’d get her for a rally. We would love to have her though.” He said they did not expect that it would work out. He said nobody from their campaign talked with Martin and they certainly don’t have any complaints about Palin.
    Also these “sources” shouldn’t complain since she did headline a successful fundraising dinner for the Republican Party of Iowa and did so for free

  7. The chaos of Palin's life, I think, reflects an inner chaos that will remain no matter how many advisors she brings on.

  8. Stories are totally in line with what Vanity Fair recently reported about her.

    Refusing time after time to to fundraisers?

    That's just stupid, politically. That's how you make people OWE you.

    She really, truly thinks politics is a beauty pageant and she can waltz down the aisle in her fancy clothes, and talk about how she wants "world peace" (but in her case, something totally different, "free guns") and people will hand her a crown.

    That IS who she is. "Princess Sarah" doesn't quite convey it, though.

    It's almost like "Queen Sarah," or "Sarah the Great" also. But it's definitely a birth-right thing rather than an accomplishment thing even.


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