Palin tour: campaign prelude or publicity stunt?

WASHINGTON Tue May 31, 2011 2:47pm EDT

1 of 2. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, greets people after taking part in the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride to honor U.S. veterans, in Washington May 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Molly Riley

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sarah Palin is going rogue again, confounding the press and delighting fans on a family bus tour that could be a prelude to an unconventional White House campaign -- or a branding exercise for Palin Inc.

The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has kept reporters scrambling across three states for three days, refusing to publish her schedule while traveling the countryside in a flashy, painted campaign-style bus.

After announcing the tour of East Coast historic sites last week, Team Palin went silent on the itinerary and refused to accommodate press coverage. It was an unusual strategy for any politician, particularly one considering a White House run in 2012.

It was hardly surprising for Palin, however, who denounces the "lamestream media" and built her political image around her unconventional style. And it paid immediate dividends with coverage from reporters who chased her like paparazzi after Angelina Jolie.

"This is a very well-orchestrated media hype that has created buzz well beyond the standard bus tour," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said.

"A standard bus tour gets standard coverage, but now she's getting standard coverage plus more. It's a huge branding exercise for Palin and her business model," he said.

Palin's routine visits to the National Archives in Washington, George Washington's Mount Vernon home in Virginia, Baltimore's Fort McHenry and the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, were news on a quiet Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Her first event on Sunday, riding in the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington on the back of a Harley, drew a frenzy of cable news attention and a crush of photographers and fans.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia media outlets eagerly reported sightings of Palin's bus as it approached the city, where she visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

In a brief chat with reporters who cornered her outside her Gettysburg hotel on Monday, Palin said any potential White House run "would definitely be unconventional and nontraditional," the New York Times reported.

Palin's bus tour and next month's Iowa premiere of a documentary film about her stint as Alaska governor has renewed speculation about her presidential ambitions. Iowa hosts the first nominating contest in the 2012 presidential race.


"She may not be sure which way she wants to go yet. If she gets a good response and her numbers go up in polls she might take the campaign part more seriously," said Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

"Right now, she looks like Donald Trump," he said, a reference to the publicity-loving real estate mogul who earned a burst of attention earlier this year when he floated the idea of running for president.

If Palin ran for the Republican nomination and the right to challenge President Barack Obama, she would be the most well-known candidate in a field that has so far failed to impress many in the party. Her star power could be enough to help her catch up even after a late start.

But some Republicans still doubt her intentions given her failure to build contacts with local officials and activists in key primary states or do any of the other traditional early work of a presidential campaign.

A White House bid would force her to give up her contract as a news contributor with Fox News cable channel and postpone potentially lucrative business ventures for the joys of spending the winter on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"If you want to run for president, you have to follow a certain blueprint even if you are unconventional, and she's showing no sign of that yet," Bonjean said. "For now she seems more interested in keeping the Palin name out there."

Palin's fans have no problems with her approach. While her poll numbers have dropped with the electorate at large, she is still popular with many conservatives in the Republican Party and Tea Party movement.

"I'm thinking maybe she just wants to meet regular people who want to come out, and not to have some big speech," said Julie Monzi of Gettysburg, who was waiting outside Palin's hotel to see her.

"This way it's more intimate and more the people who really want to see her," Monzi said of the bus tour. "She's wanting to see America, wanting to see our history, and this makes it more personal."

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (23)
bck555 wrote:
This approach of hers is just driving the media nuts! Good for her!

But don’t worry media, she will let you in soon….when she’s ready…

May 31, 2011 2:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
EN3 wrote:
When you think about it. Being this unconventional. Could be a smart play after all. One of the main cries behind the obama camp was change not the same old politics. Everyone knows this was a farce. The same old party politics is alive and well in the white house. I don’t think she will be running I believe this is just a way of her marketing her name. In either case The american people are really tired of the same old party politics. Perhaps this will show the republican party the light. Just perhaps a very long shot but just perhaps, this is the light of change not just the same old light on the train at the end of the tunnel.

May 31, 2011 2:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ginchinchili wrote:
Yes, it seems that the press always has to be following some attention-obsessed nut, and since it looks like the Donald has run out of steam with the anti-intellectual neocons, at least for the time being, they’ve returned to the old tried and true Sarah “You betcha!” Palin (wink).

Of course the press wouldn’t bother with these people if neocons weren’t so easily enamored with anyone who will publicly insult the President of the United States and then follow it up with the latest talking points penned by Roger Ailes, der fuhrer of FOX News. I guess since Palin’s blood libel faux pas has died down, the news media feels she’s safe again. At least until her next stupid blunder.

I’d love to see Sarah Palin run and win the Republican nomination, and then debate Obama. Hopefully this time around she has the names of a few books and magazines written on her hand in case she gets asked by another journalist that really tough question about what she likes to read. “Read!!!??? What’s that? How dare you attack me with those “gotcha” questions.”

May 31, 2011 3:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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