Ames, Iowa — Political organizer Peter Singleton tells National Review Online that Sarah Palin will likely launch a presidential campaign by the end of September. “I believe that she will run,” he says. “I can’t see her sitting this election out.”
Palin, a former Alaska governor, is scheduled to address a tea-party rally on September 3 in south-central Iowa. Singleton is one of the forces behind the event, working with grassroots groups. “Labor Day will kick off the Republican campaign for the nomination,” he hints. “She is going to make a major, major speech.”
Since late last year, Singleton has crisscrossed the Hawkeye State, connecting a network of supporters at rubber-chicken dinners and Republican picnics. He has huddled with county GOP chairmen, spoken with a number of conservative state lawmakers, and assembled a close-knit team of pro-Palin activists.
All of Singleton’s efforts have been self-directed, with no official involvement from Palin’s political apparatus. Still, he says, “We have not been on a lark. But we are happy, delighted even, to have people think that.”
GOP presidential contenders, from Rick Perry to Mitt Romney, will be in for a shock when Palin makes her entry, he predicts. “When she gets in the race, I would not want to be the other candidates, who have shamelessly whispered to Iowa Republicans for months that she is not running,” he says. “There will probably be some defections.”
Singleton, a 57-year-old former software salesman, says he has already compiled an extensive e-mail list of Iowans ready to join her ranks. With the help of Michelle McCormick, his fellow Organize4Palin state coordinator, “we have laid the groundwork for her,” he says.
Singleton points to Palin’s June visit to Pella, Iowa, as an example of how she is ready to make a splash in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Palin spoke at the premiere of The Undefeated, a documentary about her gubernatorial record, then attended a barbeque with attendees in the sleepy Midwestern town. Singleton and McCormick helped the film’s creators reach out to Palin’s Iowa base, drawing a big and boisterous crowd to the downtown square.
Filmmaker Stephen Bannon, who directed The Undefeated, tells NRO that he is amazed at how popular Palin remains in Iowa. Her reception in Pella, he says, was indicative of how a campaign could be received. “There is something happening under the surface here,” he says. “It’s pretty powerful.” Since the premiere, Singleton and Bannon have organized screenings across the state, hoping to generate interest in the governor’s story and her message.
The unofficial, on-the-ground Palin movement in Iowa has been boosted by the governor’s visits to the state this summer. Palin caused another stir earlier this month when she appeared at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, greeting families and farmers as scores of reporters and television cameras trailed her. Following the visit, her political team released a video chronicling the spectacle. The clip, which Palin posted on her Facebook page, ends with a message to her Iowa supporters. “Thank you, Iowa!” it reads. “See you again September 3rd.”
Over the weekend, Karl Rove, a former senior adviser to Pres. George W. Bush, noted that Palin’s flurry of activities, from her recent bus tour to the upcoming rally, signal a coming campaign. “I think she gets in,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “I’m not much of a gambler, but I’d put a little more money that she gets in than if she doesn’t, because of the schedule she’s got next week in Iowa. It looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity.”
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who tapped Palin to be his vice-presidential nominee three years ago, told CBS News that he would “certainly put some credence to Karl Rove,” but cautioned that he does “not know” if she will run.
Singleton, for his part, will be ready to welcome her back to Iowa, expecting her to announce, if not at the tea-party rally, then soon after. The event, which was originally booked to be held on a farm in Waukee, Iowa, was recently moved to nearby Indianola due to space concerns. The buzz, he reports, is palpable. “At the end of [Labor Day] weekend, people are going to be equipped and informed,” he says. “They will walk away inspired.”
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.