Monday, August 22, 2011

Sarah Palin is the elephant in the room of the Republican primary. The former Alaska governor says she is still considering whether she will join the crowd seeking the GOP presidential nod. That has the chattering class watching her every move for signs that she’s leaning one way or the other.

Steve Bannon, the writer and director of “Undefeated,” a documentary on the rise of Mrs. Palin, says her possible candidacy is about more than just one person.

“This is a tectonic plate shift in American culture - with women leading - that will have a tremendous impact on our country,” he told The Washington Times in an interview. “Inside the Washington Beltway, both Republicans and Democrats wish the Tea Party would go away, but it’s only growing in power.”

The filmmaker, however, does not think the former governor automatically wins grass-roots support. “She has a real bond with the Tea Party. Her efforts in the 2010 election were essential. But if Sarah Palin decides to run, she will have to get her story out and make her case on rebuilding the American economy. Nothing will be handed to her.”

A hypothetical Palin candidacy seems to help President Obama. A Rasmussen Reports poll on Monday shows that if the election were held today, Mr. Obama would beat Mrs. Palin by 17 points. This is the only match-up in which the president finds himself over the 50 percent mark.

President George W. Bush’s strategist Karl Rove says it’s time for Mrs. Palin to declare.

“Her difficulty is if she doesn’t get in shortly after next week, then I think people are going to basically say, ‘She’s not in. She won’t be in. If she gets in, I’m not going to be for her’”, Mr. Rove told Fox News on Sunday. “You can only tease so many times in the political process, and I think she is getting to the end of that.”

Nevertheless, the former governor of the Last Frontier State has shown no signs of being swayed by any forces other than what she says will affect her decision: prayer, her family and the other candidates.

“She is unconventional and unpredictable and plays her cards close to the vest. That drives the pundits crazy who are used to traded information and inside scoops,” Mr. Bannon said.

During the Iowa straw poll a week ago, she needled the other Republican hopefuls by showing up with her “One Nation” bus tour and working the state fair like a rock star. If Mrs. Palin decides she is ready to run, that could help the GOP.

The more true conservatives in the field, the greater the chances that Republicans will select the one best able to oust Mr. Obama and then shrink the size and scope of government. With 14 months still to go until the election, there’s plenty of time for the right candidate to launch a strong campaign and explain to the American people why he - or she - would be best able to accomplish that very daunting task.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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