Skip to comments.Media Maven: The strategic genius of Sarah Palin
Posted on 07/14/2010 4:14:40 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Like most great women of mystery, Sarah Palin is at once everywhere and nowhere. On any given evening, you might see the former Alaska governor-turned-conservative-icon on Fox News, chatting up like-minded travelers about the political buzz du jour.
Her byline pops up now and again in the opinion pages (supporting McCain, bashing enviros). She periodically hits the campaign trail with favored candidates. She is a prolific and passionate tweeter. Her Facebook page overflows with thoughts on global events both past (DDay, Reagans Brandenburg Gate speech) and present (Israel, border security, the need to drill, baby, drill); news of upcoming appearances (a rally at the Lincoln Memorial with Glenn Beck, a possible U.K. jaunt to meet Margaret Thatcher); the latest media atrocities committed against her; and her rolling endorsements of commonsense conservative candidates who tickle her fancy. And, any day now, filming is scheduled to start on the docu-travelogue series in which Palin will bring the wonder and majesty of Alaska to TLC viewers.
In the midst of this aggressive visibility, however, Palin keeps a tight grip on her time in the public eye. She rarely sits down with non-conservative interviewers and eschews mix-em-up formats pitting her viewpoint against that of a more liberal counterpart. More fascinating, she is cautious about her interaction with fellow Republicans. Some of her Facebook endorsements this election cycle have come with telephone outreach to the chosen candidate or, for the fortunate few, even joint appearances. Others come suddenly, with no direct communication at all. More than one campaign learned of Palins endorsement only when some staffer or supporter stumbled across it online. There is, for instance, an entertaining video clip of Iowa gubernatorial hopeful Terry Branstad being handed news of his anointment during a June 3 campaign event. Blindsided, Branstad chuckles awkwardly and announces, with evident amazement, I never expected this! Sarah Palin just endorsed us on Facebook. (Its hard to tell from audience members explosive laughter whether they are more delighted or appalled for Branstad, a moderate Republican whose endorsement by Palin drew howls of protest from her conservative followers.)
For Republican pols actively angling for Palins magic touch, simply attracting the attention of Palinland can prove challenging. There have been smirking media accounts of various Republican primary combatants scrambling for a Palin endorsement or appearance. Before he became infamous for serially exaggerating his résumé Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk suffered the indignity of having his make-her-love-me-please memo to Palin pal Fred Malek leaked to the media. Among Republican strategists, there has arisen grumbling about the difficulties in connecting with her people. Nobody even knows how to get ahold of her. No one knows who to call, says one. Some campaigns grew so desperate, they took to e-mailing Palins Facebook page. (Meanwhile, even among those considered close to Palin, there is some confusion as to who, besides Sarah and Todd, are in-the-know, central players in Palinland.) Grumps the strategist, The entire Palin organization seems to be the woman, a massive Facebook page, and a ton of TV cameras.
Its an unconventional media strategy, to be sure, and not without its drawbacks namely, bitter party operatives. (This means that you cant plan anything! says the strategist.) Yet its hard to deny that Palins p.r. approach has not only succeeded but succeeded brilliantly. How? The most obvious element at work here is that Palin operates not as a politician but as a celebrity. Most politicians cant get on the cover of People, sighs another GOP campaign veteran. Shes on the cover almost every week. The rules are different for celebrities: Palins megawattage enables her to command attention for every word and gesture, even as she largely stiff-arms The New York Times and Meet the Press. Similarly, candidates desperate for her endorsement are unlikely to (publicly) whine about whatever attention she dribbles their way, no matter how arbitrary or last-minute.
Of course, unlike other categories of the rich and famous, political celebs (especially populist firebrands) cannot risk being seen as remote or out of touch. But heres where Palins embrace of new media saves the day. Her perky, quirky tweets and chatty Facebook items make her fans feel as though they have a direct line to herdespite the oft-voiced assumption that Palin (like so many pols) does not write most (if any) of her own Facebook posts. Such is the beauty of social networking: It allows a public figure to avoid direct interaction with the public while promoting the illusion of personal connection and involvement.
This model makes perfect sense for Palin if she plans to continue as a media personality. Its unlikely shed change her m.o., however, even if she decided to run for office again one day. It suits her core strengthspassion, pithiness, and a mind-boggling magnetismand, lets face it, its so much easier than the conventional model. Already, even as Palin eagerly collects scalps in the midterm races (a key step toward running for future office), she is skipping much of the messier, schmoozier work of building relationships with other campaigns (traditionally also a key step), opting instead to bless many from the safe, antiseptic distance of Facebook.
Palin would not be the first celebrity candidate to attempt an above-the-fray strategy. In the hunt for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, ex-senator and erstwhile actor Fred Thompson briefly entertained dreams of running a different kind of campaign, in which his fame and willingness to rely on the Web would spare him from trudging through all those snow banks in Iowa and New Hampshire. A key part of his plan was to speak directly to voters via blog posts and other new-media tools, rather than letting himself be filtered by all the usual gatekeepers. But Thompson, while plenty well-known and delightfully avuncular, lacked the fire in the belly to make it more than a couple of feet off the starting block.
Palin, by contrast, appears to still harbor plenty of ambition, or at least scores to settle. She also enjoys a media landscape far more democratized than what Thompson faced just a few years agowho knows what Team Fred could have done with the Twitter mania thats swept politics recently?not to mention a star quality many Hollywood A-listers would kill for. With her new-media savvy and old-fashioned charisma, Palin has managed to merge Norma Desmond (Mr. DeMille, Im ready for my closeup) with Greta Garbo (I want to be alone) to become one of the most irresistible spectacles on the public stage. Any political strategist who orchestrated such brilliant success via such unconventional means would instantly be dubbed the p.r. genius of our time. But, as far as we know, there is no crack communications team charting Palins course. At some point, even Palin haters may have to face the possibility that the p.r. genius is Sarah herself.
is she the mom of chickennnnnnnnnn mannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn (he’s everywhere he’s everywhere)?
Isn’t New Republic a very liberal outfit? And they didn’t trash Sarah?
At some point, even Palin haters may have to face the possibility that theSez it all!
p.r.genius is Sarah herself.
They are up to something.
IIRC, Palin’s undergrad degree is Communications. She learned well.
Even better, she makes liberal heads explode.
And what really galls the poliical insiders is the degree to which “Sarah’s way” is working. If, as many of us here hope, she runs and wins in 2012, she will have rendered the “political operative” obsolete. And if you could describe any class of people that are clearly in her gunsights, they’re it...the ones who jacked her around mercilessly in the McCain campaign, leaked the non-story about her wardrobe, and dropped F-bombs in Piper’s presence. Yes, if she has one score to settle, it’s with them...and how better to settle it than by beating them at their own game?
Probably baking pies for the county fair. Keep your ear to the ground, Robin!
Oh, wow! Does that ever bring back memories. :-)
“Even better, she makes liberal heads explode.”
HAHAHAHA! And she does it with that adorable, mischievous grin on her face. She’s terrific!
“she is skipping much of the messier, schmoozier work of building relationships with other campaigns (traditionally also a key step),”
I guess this author doesn’t get around to much when it comes to Palin. Palin has been doing meet and greets all a long except they are held in “private”. What do they think those VIP photo session are all about before each speech or raising money for state and county GOP committees are all about. During her book tour Palin attended a lot of these meet and greets.
I want one.
Sarah may be doing her best service by showing other conservative candidates how to get fame and raise money while avoiding the MSM for the most part.
“To the Super Coop, Fred!”
Second, I remember 2008. If you’re a Republican political consultant and you’re having trouble getting Sarah Palin to return your calls...maybe there’s a reason for that.
Translation: She's the one who knows how to play the media, and you're not.
The idiot media themselves are providing the wind for her sails.
...a possible U.K. jaunt to meet Margaret Thatcher.....
I've been saying for months she should do this.
Just watch the liberal wimps wet themselves when the photo op comes out .....
Katie Couric. Little Miss Venomous, whose nickname around the Old Dominion football team years ago was "Choo-Choo".
Talk about coming up with different values.
I was looking for this -- it's the payload.
"Sarah's cheating. She's faking it and mailing it in. Her sincerity is faux. [Go get her Katie! Tear her arms off!]"
First, she’s not on the cover of People every week. I think she’s only been the cover once actually, when she was named to the ticket.
2nd, I highly doubt any Republican who needs to has trouble getting in contact with her or someone in her orbit. Just ask Greta Van Susteren, she probably has a GPS tracking device secretly planted somewhere in those Kawasaki frames.
I do think if she decides to run for President she’ll have to step outside of the FOX cocoon. It’s true that everyone in the MSM media has it in for her, but every conservative has to deal with that and if she wants to be Preisdent she will as well.
Also, she will definitely need a political operation/campaign manager. Everyone already has one. Romney and Huckabee from their 2008 bids. Pawlenty, Daniels, Barbour from their Governorships. She doesn’t. As far as I know her campaign manager when she ran for Governor was just a good friend she knew from the Gym pr something like that. Not an experienced pol like a Rove(wuth W from his TX days) or an Axelrod(with Obama from his Senate days). Usually someone has a team that’s been with them for a while.
I’m guessing she’s watching some of the women candidates running and paying attention to their staffs and potentially vice versa in terms of some them “auditioning”. If Fiorina takes out Boxer for example I’d think the people behind that campaign would start to look very attractive. If Angle takes out Reid same for her staff. Ditto for Haley, Ayotte, etc...
A nice article, though.
Campaigns tend to use practice runs. For Obama, his own campaign in 2004 and more to the point Patrick in MA, were the practice runs. Patrick in MA was all about how to run an intelletcual black guy and have him appeal to white folks, the test drive of the Obama campaign in 2008. Brown in MA and moreso Whitman in CA are clearly practice runs for Romney, they’re run by the same people. Whitman is all about how to run a non-ideological technocrat with loads of cash and a background in Wall St and coporate America. If she wins her campaign will be the model for Romney the next year.
If anything, the various primary and general campaigns by pro-life women like Fiorina, Haley, Angle, Martinez, Fallin, Handel, Ayotte, and Norton will provide lots of lessons. They’re in key states, different areas of the country. They’ll show what strategies work, what don’t. What issues play. How to discuss the economy, what policies work against the dems, appeal to independents, etc... They’ll be useful laboratories. I recall reading that a problem with the McCain staff was that no one on his staff had any experience with a woman candidate and how to run them. After this year, there will be plenty of people with experience of running conservative women.
“Like most great women of mystery, Sarah Palin is at once everywhere and nowhere.”
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