Politico's Jonathan Martin was able to get some of the conservative heavy hitters who attended Newsmax's private dinner with Sarah Palin in Palm Beach Wednesday to share a few details about the event.
Martin was told by three of the attendees that Gov. Palin "implicitly addressed" the issue of her electability by reminding the dinner guests that Ronald Reagan's critics said couldn’t win in 1980. She reportedly told the gathering that those who don’t have conservative convictions will always say a true conservative can’t win.One attendee told Martin, “I think she sees herself as heir to Reagan.” The pundit says that by invoking the Gipper at an event such as this, the 2008 vice presidential candidate is showing that she is, "at the very least, thinking through how she’d make her case if she pursued the presidency."
Pointing out that the knock on Reagan was that he was also too far to the right, the former Alaska governor repeatedly invoked the 40th president and conservative icon, at one point citing the quotation he was most fond of: that America is a “shining city on a hill.”
Martin takes recent comments and actions by the governor and those closest to her as strong signs that she wants to be taken seriously as a potential White House contender. He argues that just meeting with the GOP donors, strategists and activists who were among the dinner guests speaks to her presidential intentions.
Martin's sources say Gov. Palin did not directly address a White House bid at the event:
Rather she used her remarks and a question-and-answer period with about 50 conservative insiders to discuss topics such as health care, the midterm elections and the state of the GOP.Though Sarah Palin herself refrained from openly discussing any plans she may or may not have to run, that did not prevent "many in the room" from discussing just that:
Palin discussed the importance of keeping the tea party movement in the GOP but criticized establishment Republicans who she said weren’t listening to the party’s grass roots by supporting moderate candidates over conservatives. If the party recaptures Congress, she said, Republicans must govern differently than in the Bush years and show more fidelity to small-government principles on spending.
Each of the attendees who spoke with POLITICO said they were impressed by her performance, particularly when she took questions and spoke off the cuff.
“Palin was engaging, charming, and well-informed on the issues and the campaigns going on around the country,” said Ralph Reed, a longtime GOP strategist who is now running a social conservative group called the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “While circumspect about her future plans, she was clear she wants to see the party and the country go in a more conservative direction.”
“I was surprised about how many people in room said ‘yes’ when I asked if they could see themselves supporting her,” said one attendee. “I was expecting to hear what you mostly hear — ‘I hope she doesn’t do it’ or, ‘She’s more effective doing what she’s doing.’”Some of the guests identified by Martin were Reed, Michael Reagan, Grover Norquist, Dick Morris, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and key Republican donors such as former GOPAC Chair Gay Gaines, businessman Lee Hanley and former Reagan Ambassador to Switzerland Faith Whittlesey.
Some others named by the Palm Beach Post's Jose Lambiet were Miami builder Stanley Tate, Jonathan Sandys (a grandson of Winston Churchill), West Virginia's John Raese (the surprisingly strong candidate for the U.S. Senate) and Florida State Rep. Adam Hasner.