By Scott Conroy
Throughout the better part of the last two years, the narrative among influential political operatives and opinion makers in Washington remained unchanged: Sarah Palin would continue to be a dynamic media presence and possible kingmaker in the next presidential election, but she would not be a serious presidential candidate herself.
As other prospective 2012 candidates began to build their organizations, courted prominent fundraisers, and meet with influential powerbrokers in Iowa and New Hampshire, Palin was widely seen as having missed the boat. Her political apparatus was frequently dismissed as disorganized, amateurish, and hesitant to take the fundamental steps thought to be necessary to lay the foundation for a viable presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, Palin's small inner circle kept their eyes on the prize, pausing every now and then to chuckle at the dismissiveness of the Beltway establishment.
"Look at what's happened over the past two years, and you tell me that we don't have a more effective strategy than our peers," Palin aide Michael Goldfarb told RealClearPolitics. "Who's been able to get their message out more effectively? Who's had greater influence? And you tell me why we should play by the same rules that the press wants everybody to play by. It doesn't make any sense."
Since resigning from office, Palin has proven time and again the primacy of her influence in the Republican Party, setting the tone and defining the parameters on issues ranging from health care to monetary policy. And she has done it by shattering the traditional rules of communication, using Twitter, Facebook, and her regular appearances on Fox News and conservative radio to bypass the traditional media to whom she and her staff have taken a special delight in deriding.
"She's been very effective at setting up a new paradigm for communicating with people, and it's been a great success," Goldfarb said. "If that marginalizes reporters sometimes, well then boo-hoo."
Now that the midterms are over and the campaign before the presidential campaign has begun, Palin is making some adjustments, fully aware that she cannot tweet, Facebook post, and Sean Hannity her way to the White House. She recently granted extensive interviews to the New York Times and ABC News, and her SarahPAC staff intends to make a more concerted effort to highlight to the media her prepared remarks on the frequent policy speeches she gives.
Meanwhile, Palin's ratings-shattering TLC show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," will continue to show millions of American homes the kinder, gentler side of Palin's personality each Sunday night for the next seven weeks.
Palin's outsized influence on the midterm elections and her most recent pronouncements about her presidential intentions have caused the D.C. narrative to shift in recent weeks, as Beltway logic now holds that Palin is indeed seriously interested in running for president and could be a strong contender to win the Republican nomination.
SarahPAC officials have begun fielding more frequent calls from reporters asking about her revamped focus on policy and newly candid statements about being interested in the presidency, leading Palin confidantes to jokingly speculate that "the Beltway herd" suddenly woke up and decided that she is indeed serious about a presidential run after someone began talking about it at a cocktail party.
"She hasn't changed her statement that ‘if the door is open, I'll go through it'; she hasn't changed in any way what she's said all along." Rebecca Mansour, a close Palin aide told RealClearPolitics. "None of them really understand her or get her in a lot of ways. They underestimate her, which makes me laugh. They don't really understand how she thinks. She always keeps them guessing because they just don't get it."
For over two years, Palin has been more candid about how she is leaning toward a presidential run than just about any other likely Republican candidate. After all, it was in her very first national television interview after the 2008 election when she told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren in not-so-coy language that she would "plow through" any doors that God opened for her to the presidency.
And by all indications, members of Palin's staff appear to expect her to run and are acting accordingly. (Continues here)