It was, perhaps, inevitable that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s supporters wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. They were such fervent supporters: citizens from across the nation spending their time and money trying to convince her to run for president. They printed flyers and T-shirts. They set up websites and booths at small town political events. They tweeted like mad birds, wrote thousands of emails, joined on the comment section of thousands of news stories. They flew across the country to hear her speak and believed that they would be rewarded for their efforts.
When she announced on Oct. 5 that she was going to opt out of the race, many were crestfallen -- some so crestfallen that they couldn’t quite believe it. Apparently some still can’t.
First the group Conservatives4Palin began a “reconsider” movement and played ads in Iowa pleading for Palin to do so. And now, another group has emerged that has bought both television and radio ad time in Iowa just days before the Iowa Republican caucus on Jan.3.
The group is called Sarah Palin’s Earthquake Movement, name thusly because she said on a local radio show that it would take an earthquake to make her change her mind and throw her ring in the hat. Palin herself, of course, is in no way affiliated with the group, but its ads nonetheless urge supporters in Iowa to caucus for her, to “vote rogue,” which would still count in Iowa even though she’s not an official candidate. You can see and hear the ads here and here.
Part of the issue seems to be the lack of support for any of the current slate of candidates. Herman Cain was interesting, until he wasn’t. Rick Perry is “up to his eyeballs” in crony capitalism. Mitt Romney’s flip-flops are anathema to the Movement. Michele Bachmann talks the conservative talk, but her chief of staff has talked smack about Palin, and she isn’t experienced enough, they say. Ron Paul is all wrong on Israel, among other things he’s all wrong on. Rick Santorum just can’t get the traction. Newt Gingrich? As one member of the Palin Earthquake group, Brian Lerch, said: “There’s a good Newt and a bad Newt. The problem is, when will the bad Newt emerge and self-destruct?”
Besides, he said, lots of people just don’t like Newt.
It seems that Palinistas are verbalizing what many other Republicans are thinking about the current field. They, unlike the other Republicans however, aren’t ready to settle for second-best.
Lerch, a financial adviser who lives in Chicago’s North Shore area, has been a Palin fan before most knew that Alaska’s former governor was a she, or that Alaska even had such a thing as a governor. He’s been steadfast all the way, and he’s not giving up on his girl.
The Earthquake campaign is a quixotic one run by a group much like other groups that have popped up around Palin: ordinary citizens with a mission, but not much in the way of resources. The commercials, compared to the ultra-slick productions offered by the other candidates, show it. But the intent of them is not so much to win. It's to send a message to the other candidates -- and, of course, to the former governor herself.
“If she could get up to 5 percent of Iowans to caucus for her, it would make an extremely powerful statement,” Lerch said.
Does he feel that he’s disrespecting Palin’s decision not to run? Wasn’t she firm in her decision? Well, when she said that she would “not be seeking” the nomination, Lerch and others thought, OK, so maybe the nomination should seek her. And then she seemed to open the door farther for herself in a recent Fox interview when she said that it’s still not too late for a candidate to enter the race.
He likens his Palin pursuit to the draft Dwight Eisenhower movement. Indeed, there are similarities. Eisenhower continually said that he would not seek the nomination. Then, however, when it was clear that there was a strong movement to draft him to run for office, he said that he would consider it “if called” to run. One of the bigger supporters of the draft movement went all rogue on Ike, forcing his hand by entering his name, without his permission, in the New Hampshire primary. Still, it took winning the primary for him to formally enter the race.
Steve Bannon, who wrote and directed the pro-Palin movie, “The Undefeated” and who considers himself a staunch Palin fan, thinks that their efforts, while “endearing,” are in vain and perhaps even counter-productive.
“It does not reflect well on the Palin movement when you can’t take no for an answer,” Bannon said. Besides that, he said, “taking a few ads in Iowa isn’t going to change her mind.” And compared to the millions the other candidates are putting toward the effort, it might make Palin and her fans look a little sad.
Doug Usher, who directs the research division of the Washington, D.C.-based public policy firm Purple Strategies, also doesn’t give the group’s efforts much of a chance. “I think it’s extremely unlikely that an outside group would be able to organize enough numbers to make a difference,” he said. He does however see a crack in the door for a third-party candidate if Romney sweeps Iowa and the other early states. If enough people are dissatisfied with Romney’s formerly held liberal positions -- including being pro-choice, tough on guns, and soft on immigration -- coupled with a hard-core Christian conservative base who don’t feel comfortable supporting a Mormon, someone could emerge to sweep some of those votes, Usher said.
That third-party candidate could be Donald Trump. Or it could be Palin.
Lerch and his group aren’t waiting around for that to happen, however. He does understand that trying to force Palin’s hand, like the Ike supporter forced his, might seem condescending. But he also hasn’t heard Palin disavow the effort. “We’ve taken some encouragement that she hasn’t done anything to stop it,” he said. They’ll likely continue to make noise until she does.
Contact Amanda Coyne at Amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com