Almost any politician in the U.S. follows tried and true patterns when dealing with the media. They alert the media of an upcoming event, the media shows up, photos are taken, cameras roll. Sometimes questions follow. And then the media goes home. But not Sarah Palin.
Palin alerted the media to the first stop on her northeastern road trip: the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C. But after some event organizers expressed displeasure on Friday over her plans to attend the event, Palin’s staff refused to comment about the appearance and some reporters wondered if she’d even show up. No time was given – the event lasted from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. No venue was given – Rolling Thunder’s course goes for more than five miles from Arlington cemetery around the National Mall. The annual charity for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action draws a quarter of a million bikes and an estimated 900,000 participants – good luck finding the Palin family amid all that.
Amazingly, some media did (bravo, AP’s Phil Elliott), though the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee mostly declined to answer questions. She signed jackets and hats, shook hands and admired tattoos. She rode on the back of her daughter Willow’s Harley. Todd Palin rode with their youngest daughter Piper. Their eldest daughter Bristol rode separately, according to media reports. Palin had “rolling justice” written in smeared ink on one hand and a George W. Bush sticker on her bike reading, “Miss me?”
“There’s no better way to see D.C. than on the back of a Harley! My family may be used to snowmachines more so than motorcycles,” Palin wrote on her political action committee’s website. “But whether you’re riding the open road or the frozen tundra, you’re celebrating a free spirit. What could be more American than that?”
After the rally, Palin took an “incognito” tour of Washington monuments, about which she blogged. “We met some great everyday citizens who were also “taking it all in” in honor of the greatest nation on earth,” she wrote.
Where does she go next? North –her staff will say nothing more. Political reporters have fanned out from Antietam to Gettysburg on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of her next potential stop. Congratulations, Sarah Palin, you have turned the Washington press corps into a bunch of paparazzi stalking your every move.
As Palin moves up the East Coast, ending her trip in politically important New Hampshire, the press seems poised to follow. I would say Palin’s goal is to torture the “lame stream media,” but there may be more going through her mind. In many ways, it’s a smart ploy. The frustration and time spent looking for Palin, only to have her say next to nothing, is driving the press wild. Even if it yields few stories, Palin still controls her own message by blogging the trip herself, and forcing everyone to check her website to see what she’s saying and where she’s going.
The goal of the road trip seems to be two fold: 1) to bring the attention back to her after months of laying low, and 2) raise money for her political acti0n committee ahead of June’s Federal Election Commission reporting deadline. Both goals seem to indicate she’s considering a run for the presidency. The public attention from her trip coupled with new fundraising would be the perfect springboards for an announcement. Another added benefit: She’s dominating the news cycle in a week important to her potential rivals for the nomination.
So, will she run? “Don’t know,” she told one fellow Rolling Thunder biker. The more she plays hard to get, the more the media — and voters, she hopes — want her.