Is Sarah Palin serious about 2016?


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WEST DES MOINES —The last time Sarah Palin visited Iowa prior to a major election, many were anticipating a presidential campaign announcement.

Three years later, political representatives and experts say they have no suspicion the former Alaska governor’s visit to Iowa on Sunday had anything to do with 2016.

Sarah Palin was in West Des Moines at an event hosted by the Iowa arm of ShePAC to endorse Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, in the Senate primary race. Sen. Deb Fischer R-Neb., former Republican Gov. Kay Orr of Nebraska, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds accompanied Palin at the event. ShePAC is a political Republican action committee committed to supporting, honoring, and electing conservative women candidates around the country.

Since her campaign for vice president in 2008, alongside John McCain, Palin has made numerous visits to Iowa for book tours and speaking events. Her visits in 2011 at the Iowa State Fair and ahead of the Ames Straw Poll stirred up many question about her possible intentions to run for president.
Christopher Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, said it is very unlikely the same hype will occur this time around.

“Her view as a strong candidate was hurt a little bit by some of the events that happened during the [2008] campaign, and since then, it’s been hard for her to recover,” he said referencing the Katie Couric interviews that shed an unfavorable light on the former candidate. “I just don’t see her as being part of the regular conversation for 2016.”

Larimer said the 2008 campaign brought up questions of Palin’s qualifications to lead the country, and Iowa party representatives are split along party lines on this idea.

Bill Keettel, the head of the Johnson Country Republicans, said her executive-branch experience as Alaska’s governor speaks to her qualifications, but he would put her in the top 20 possible Republican nominees as opposed to the top five.

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, echoed Keettel’s views about her executive experience.

“I think looking back on it she was more qualified and is more qualified than our current president,” he said.

Several audience members at the ShePAC rally said they would support Palin if she made a run in 2016, but they, too, didn’t think she would.

“Why would she?” said Nancy Watson, an audience member from Des Moines. “She’s very influential in what she’s doing now and probably making more money in what she’s doing now with less hassle than the president.”

Democratic leaders in Iowa say Palin would have many factors working against her if she were to run in 2016, including what they perceive to be a lack of education on international issues and staunchly conservative views.

“If Republicans are going to rely on Sarah Palin to be their standard bearer in 2014 and 2016, it’s clear where their party stands on the issues that matter to Iowa’s middle class families,” Christina Freundlich, a communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said in an email. “For the past five years, Sarah Palin has been about one thing — promoting herself.”

Palin’s current role in the Republican Party is that of a public conservative figure who can rally base support, and she is unlikely to set that role aside to enter the race in 2016, said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

“In fact, she would risk her celebrity status if she did that and lost,” he said. “If she gets down in the trenches with other Republican candidates and loses, that’s going to take some of the luster.”

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