Thursday, January 20, 2011

Scott Conroy: Sarah Palin gauging her level of support in Iowa

Taking discreet steps
Scott Conroy reports that Palin aides are "quietly" reading the tea leaves in Iowa, making inquiries of "a select pool of likely allies and grassroots activists" of what her prospects would be in The Hawkeye State if she were to declare her candidacy for the White House:
Key Republican officials and operatives in the nation's first voting state had begun to assume that Palin would not run for president in 2012 since most of them have not heard a word from her or from her small circle of aides, even as other likely candidates have begun jockeying more forcefully behind the scenes. But a Palin adviser confirmed that although the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee's footprint has not been as heavy as that of other possible candidates, her political action committee has indeed been taking discreet steps in Iowa that would help her build a credible campaign here if she decided to launch one.

"The idea that we're not in Iowa is inaccurate," SarahPAC adviser Andy Davis told RealClearPolitics.

A top official in the Iowa Tea Party who insisted on anonymity to avoid betraying Palin's trust told RealClearPolitics that a friend of SarahPAC met with him in person in Des Moines late last year and prodded him for suggestions on how Palin might mount a grassroots campaign in the state.

Earlier this month, the same Iowa Tea Party official began preliminary work on scheduling a potential invitation to Palin for a fundraiser in Iowa. RealClearPolitics independently confirmed that the Tea Party official has been in contact with Palin allies.

Even as speculation has ramped up in media and campaign circles that Palin has become increasingly unlikely to mount a presidential campaign, her aides have been strategizing on how they would organize their infrastructure in Iowa and have continued to reach out gently to close confidantes in the state.

"I know of three of four people in Iowa who have had contact with Palin's aides," the Iowa Tea Party official said.

Conroy say's Gov. Palin's team is also working to disabuse the notion held by some powerbrokers in Iowa that she would not be able and willing to do traditional ground-level retail politics, preferring instead to make a massive media campaign her exclusive tactic in any campaign. In private conversations, Conroy says, her aides have stressed the point that gov. Palin genuinely enjoys opportunities to meet and greet voters in small venues. They point out that she recognizes the mistakes made by Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 by not doing the heavy lifting that is required in the early states.

A caveat: According to Conroy, Gov. Palin has not yet made a final decision on whether she will run for president "by all accounts."

Another caveat: Some well-meaning Palin supporters and a few local reporters prone to jump to conclusions have created a problem for the Palin team by traveling to to Iowa and other states and doing some freelance organizing, all on their own initiative and at their own expense. These independent operatives have no official connection to SarahPAC or the governor. Their activities have led to some false reports, including one that the team was scouting for office space in Iowa. They were not.

- JP

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