116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It's possible, maybe even probable, that Sarah Palin's highly lucrative “keep 'em guessing” game won't result in an actual run for president.
She may indeed be playing us. I, for one, hope so.
But if she takes the plunge, I think Palin will win the Iowa caucuses.
Now wait just a cornpickin' minute, you might be thinking.
Surely, the Wasilla whirlwind won't pay sufficient homage to Iowa activists, or sit at humble kitchen tables with mismatched salt and pepper shakers or serve herself up with a side of over-easy eggs at cafes or grant 30-minute interviews to the Woodbine Twiner.
As they say in the hustings, bunk.
Sure, I could be wrong. Maybe Mitt Romney finally finds just enough flips and flops to triumph this time. Maybe Tim, what's his name again, Pawlenty catches fire. Perhaps Mike Huckabee scores a rare two-peat. I guess it's always possible Iowa Republicans will harbor love for Barbour, or put their loot on Newt.
But can any of them stop a roaring “Mama Grizzly” from mauling the caucuses? I doubt it.
And let's be honest, folks. The acidity of big-time politics has been eating away at the quaint veneer of our caucuses for a while now. There was a day when toedippers showed up with a staffer and maybe a couple of D.C. scribes. In the early months, at least, it was a cozy, highly accessible and Iowa-driven conversation.
Efforts to sustain that tradition have run head-on into a national, poll-fed political media machine determined to make every day Election Day and drive the plot from day one. It's no coincidence that this obsessive yet superficial coverage has coincided with the era of “rock star” celebrity politicians. Palin is queen of this ball.
Iowa's caucuses have become largely a backdrop for the national circus. So-called “retail” politicking still happens, but it's more controlled and choreographed than ever before. Iowans still demand access, but we're also not immune to the tingle emitted by rock stars.
Can you imagine a Palin invasion of the already media-saturated Iowa Straw Poll? The state GOP had better order extra porta-potties.
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush proved that super-sized candidates can do well here. Palin is an even bigger attraction. “An all-consuming super nova, Palin will suck the oxygen out of every room, everywhere she goes,” former John McCain adviser Jeff McKinnon predicted recently at “The Daily Beast.”
With her resources, clout and following, I think Palin will have a solid base in this state, if she runs. She'll do plenty of obligatory small events, and likely will be lavishly praised for exceeding low expectations. She can tell the Woodbine Twiner and the rest of us to take a hike because her supporters don't care what we write about her. They'll just check her Facebook page.
She'll be like no candidate we've ever seen. If we see her at all.
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