Five Reasons Not to Count Sarah Palin Out for 2012

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The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is that Sarah Palin’s relatively low profile means she’s peaked, she’s over, she’s not running for President. I’m not so sure. In fact, I think all signs point to Palin laying the tracks for a run. Here are five reasons not to count out a Palin candidacy:

1.    She just launched a new website yesterday that could significantly boost her grassroots outreach and fundraising. On the site, supporters can ask Palin to appear at events, donate money to her political action committee and follow her latest musings on Facebook and Twitter. No, this isn’t a website for corporations looking to hire a speaker for $100,000 a pop — the kind of speech Palin’s been giving for the last two years. “I guess people could request almost anything but this is more for grassroots political events,” says Tim Crawford, SarahPAC’s treasurer.  “Any corporate engagements we’d pass immediately on to the Washington Speaker’s Bureau,” which books Palin’s paid speeches. This is Palin’s first serious foray into online fundraising that harnesses her social network popularity. It will be interesting when her PAC reports its fundraising numbers in July how much dough the new site brings in. Sure, she’s still giving paid speeches and commenting on Fox News (unlike Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum). But this website is the clearest indication yet that she’s turning away from money making to focus on politics.

2.    Palin has said repeatedly that she’d only get into the race if there was no other viable candidate. “I would consider it if there is no one else running who represents the common sense principles our country needs to secure our children and grandchildren’s futures,” she told me last November. Now, let’s look at the brouhaha stirred up by Donald Trump; can we seriously say the base isn’t hankering for a candidate with a little more flair?  Unlike her more cautious potential rivals – ahem, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty — she didn’t just praise Paul Ryan for his budget — she actually endorsed the plan itself. As with her midterm endorsements in 2010, she’s making a bold play for the Tea Party vote. Of course, she may have some serious competition from Michele Bachmann, but Palin still has the potential to be queen of the Tea Party.

3.    Palin has always set herself up as the anti-Obama. She told me last November that the only path to victory is by drawing the strongest contrast. But, as Human Events notes, she’s also the anti-McCain: Beloved by the base and at odds with the media. She’s also becoming an outspoken union critic (despite the fact that she used to promote herself as the wife of a union man).  This past weekend in Madison, after lavishing praise on Gov. Scott Walker’s battle with the public sector unions, she proudly announced: “The 2012 election begins here!” and “Mr. President, game on!” There weren’t any other potential 2012 contenders in the crowd.

4.    Palin has always promised to be an untraditional candidate who refuses to kiss up to the establishment (In Madison, she declared: “I’ll take on the GOP establishment… We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. We didn’t elect you to just stand back and watch Obama redistribute those deck chairs. What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight.”) It may be old news, but there’s no escaping the fact that she has made all the traditional motions of a presidential candidate in waiting: She published two books; she endorsed, campaigned and raised money for midterm candidates in 2010; and she traveled abroad to Israel earlier this year, an essential pilgrimage for any Republican presidential wannabe.

5.    Palin has been unusually low-key of late — she’s not putting herself out there as relentlessly as she did in 2010.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder, some distance from the spotlight might be exactly what Palin needs to recover from low approval ratings. Her true believers will be all the more thrilled if and when she launches herself back into the fray for 2012.