Still Waiting for Sarah

by Robert Costa

Will Sarah Palin run for president?

A month ago, political organizer Peter Singleton predicted that she would launch a presidential campaign by late September. “I believe that she will run,” he said in an interview with National Review Online. “I can’t see her sitting this one out.”

He’s still waiting. On the phone from rural Iowa this afternoon, Singleton, a 57-year-old former software salesman, told me that he has an extensive e-mail list of supporters ready to join her ranks. But for now, there is no campaign. Palin continues to mull. And Singleton, as ever, continues to crisscross the Hawkeye State, stirring buzz about Palin and Organize4Palin, the grassroots group he directs alongside Michelle McCormick.

“We’re not terribly concerned about when Governor Palin announces,” he says. “She is going to need to make decision soon, since there are statutory deadlines. But as we see the race, it remains wide open, so we’re not worried about the timing at all.”

“If she decides not to run, that’s her own choice. I still believe that it is very likely that she will run, that’s she’s just waiting for the right time to make an announcement,” Singleton says. However, he says that he will not wait forever, and that his efforts are a “serious” push to establish a movement behind her message, not to be a “fan” or cheerleader.

Speaking with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Tuesday, Palin hinted that there is time for more presidential contenders to jump in. “Mark my word, it is going to be an unconventional type of election process,” she said. “It is a big agenda out there for those of us who are so extremely concerned about the future of our country. Whether we are candidates or whether we are supportive of the right candidacies, we’re going to be working so hard in these next 14 months.”

A new McClatchy-Marist poll shows Palin gaining, trailing President Obama 49 percent to 44 percent. In that survey, Palin also leads Obama among independents. Singleton shrugs off the numbers, telling me that if Palin runs, she’ll shake up the race in a way that no poll, for the moment, could quantify. He may be right. But he knows that as the clock ticks, her chances could be jeopardized, even if the cycle is “unconventional.”

And if she does not run, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and others shouldn’t bother reaching out to Palin supporters, he says. “We’re going to sit on the sidelines, up in the stands,” he says. “I’ll vote, but I’m not going to get behind another candidate.”

UPDATE: Peter Singleton emails:

When I spoke about sitting on the sidelines, up in the stands, that was in reference to the Ames straw poll.  Rather than taking a run at getting her write-in votes, as did the highly-organized ‘Americans for Rick Perry,’ who spent a great deal of money on their write-in effort, we sat out the straw poll since our candidate wasn’t in yet.  Just as if we were watching our next opponent on the field while we were taking films from the stands, when we had a bye that week.  The image is of folks who are still very actively engaged in the process, but during this week (e.g. at the straw poll) we’re not out on the playing field.

If she doesn’t get in the race, I said that I believed that Gov. Palin’s grassroots supporters would not move en masse to one candidate.  For me, there’s no one I would work this hard, and in this fashion for, because I don’t believe there’s anyone else with her qualities as a leader.  That said, any Republican candidate would be a vast improvement on Barack Obama, a vast improvement.  I would guess that among Gov. Palin’s grassroots supporters, some would then support other candidates, with people supporting a variety of candidates, and other folks will get involved in other efforts to restore America–the animating motive why we support Gov. Palin.  None of us will sit out the 2012 election. 

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