By Brices Crossroads
I listen ad nauseam to posters, some who are pro-Palin and some who are anti-Palin, discourse about Sarah Palin's entry (or non-entry) into the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes, generally advising her to "Hurry up!". Those afflicted with PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) gleefully proclaim that she is not running. Of course, not only is there no evidence for this proposition, her actions in the last six months, as well as many of her statements, would lead any rational observer to believe that she will run. But leaving aside the PDSers (who are in any case engaging in wishful thinking because they do not want her to run), let me turn to the not insignificant number of Palinistas who are anxious that she should unambiguously announce her candidacy YESTERDAY or, at the very least, today.
They are being taunted by the Establishment and the Mainstream Media over the delay in Palin's announcement. The Establishment is motivated by a desire that Palin, if she means to get in, enter the race sooner rather than later for strategic reasons, as I will explain. The media, always hungry for ratings, is motivated by a desire to have Palin in the race because her presence will juice up their withering balance sheets. The Palinistas merely want to be able to advocate for her as an official candidate and to hurl a collective "I told ya so" at her detractors.
None of these constitutes a valid reason for her to adjust her announcement schedule if she wants to actually increase her chances of winning the nomination. There are many reasons to delay. The other candidates will begin to fade and to drop out, as they have. There is not clear frontrunner, which there isn't. The field is weak, which it is. And the candidates have not been vetted, which will cause their support to erode over time. On the other hand, Palin has 100% name recognition and is very popular with the GOP base. She does not need to introduce herself to them, although she will have to re-introduce herself to the national electorate, a process that she already begun with her bus tour and movie.
The most compelling reason to delay is very simple. Money. Palin will have to run an insurgent campaign. I believe she will have adequate funding, but she will not be able to compete with Establishment candidates like Romney and Perry in fundraising. A longer campaign, while it might warm the cockles of the Palinista heart, plays to the advantage of the well heeled Establishment candidates.
A shorter campaign neutralizes that advantage. Both Romney and Perry will have more money than Palin. That is certain. But it is far from decisive. In 1979, Eastern Establishment scion George Bush outraised Ronald Reagan by a wide margin for his 1980 run, and former Texas Governor John Connally raised more than both, an up to that time unheard-of $11 million (for which he garnered a single delegate, before dropping out after the South Carolina primary).
As Craig Shirley reported in his book, Rendezvous with Destiny, Reagan was cash-strapped when he announced (in November 1979)and did not have enough money to purchase a half hour of broadcast time the night of his announcement. And Reagan was nearly completely broke after the New Hampshire primary, while Bush continued to run a well funded campaign. Bush and Conally used their largesse to run longer, more expensive campaigns, defeating Reagan in virtually every straw poll in the summer and fall of 1979. (In Iowa, among the candidates on the straw poll ballot, it was Bush: 36%; Connally: 15% ; Bob Dole: 14%; Ronald Reagan 11%) The Gipper did worse in others, often finishing in single digits, as he did in an Oregon straw poll won by Bush with 35%. (h/t: Rendezvous with Destiny, Chapter 4)
What nearly cost Reagan the nomination in 1980 was a) the overspending of his campaign BEFORE and after his announcement and b) his failure to compete vigorously in Iowa(he visited the state only once) He lost narrowly to Bush 33-31 on caucus night. Bachmann's straw poll win garnered her some free publicity, but she bought 6000 tickets (@ $35 a pop) and received only 4800 votes.
The delay in Palin's announcement is principally rooted in a desire to neutralize the Establishment's money advantage. She already has a grass roots organization on the ground in Iowa (where she has been observed twice now in the company of Iowa fundraiser Becky Beach). She is not going to play in straw polls which do nothing but swell the coffers of the Establishment state parties, which by and large oppose her, and which garner no delegates. And her two recent visits to Iowa, to Pella and Ames, which were accompanied by raucous receptions, as well as her upcoming speech to the Tea Party activists at Wauka on September 3, indicate that she is not about to repeat the Gipper's mistake of overlooking Iowa.
Her entry in the next few weeks will cut Bachmann's support in the state in half, but she will also draw votes from conservative Catholics (who find Bachmann off-putting) and from the two governors still in the race, Romney and Perry. She is able to draw not just from the Evangelical wing (where she will shrink Bachmann dramatically) but from the CATO economic libertarian wing which finds both Perry's crony capitalism and Romney's statism anathema and which does not like Bachmann's high profile evangelical fervor.
Far from threatening her campaign, Sarah Palin's delay in announcing will prove to have been a brilliant move, as as well as a fiscally prudent one (portending no doubt the kind of Administration she will run), and it will set the standard for insurgent candidates in future races.