Does Sarah Palin have a secret Nixon strategy?
Last night on Hannity (as seen here in Part 1 and here in Part 2) former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin dropped into the Iowa State Fair to say that she is indeed considering a presidential run….and the place went nuts. Calling for an “American Restoration” her appearance drew noisy cheers from the surrounding crowd when she suggested among other things (and here she pointed to the crowd) that it was the job of Americans to be “holding those liars accountable” who insist big government is the answer.
Time moves quickly, and what was interesting in Palin’s appearance was not just the crowd response. It was almost that in her long absence from the presidential campaign, leading many to suggest she was in fact not a candidate, rank-and-file Republicans had scanned the potential candidates and suddenly realized it was Palin they had loved all along.
If in fact Palin finally jumps into this race, there is an interesting historical precedent for the idea that a self-enforced absence from the political scene makes the public’s heart grow fonder for the missing candidate.
In 1967 Richard Nixon, rejuvenated by the GOP success in the 1966 elections (like the GOP 2010 victories a stunning GOP comeback) and wanting badly to have a second shot in 1968 after his narrow loss to JFK in 1960, had an interesting strategy. He believed his biggest problem was the belief by many that, in his words, “Nixon can’t win.” How to get around this? While privately telling his closest friends he wanted them to move ahead with plans to run, publicly he announced that he would spend 1967 in a self-imposed political “moratorium.” Nixon later wrote:
… I considered the ability to remain officially undecided for as long as possible to be one of my greatest advantages. Not only would this allow me more independence, but the speculation about my intentions guaranteed far more media attention than I would have if I announced…
Here’s another interesting coincidence. The front runner of the day in 1967 for the GOP? That would be the popular Republican Governor of Michigan – Mitt Romney’s dad, George. Nixon said the risk in letting Romney have all the attention in 1967
was carefully calculated. George Romney would be out front taking the heat from the press and the pundits while I continued my quiet planning.…
In the end, Romney did step in it, saying he had been brainwashed while in Vietnam by the LBJ folks. Nixon, on the sidelines, suddenly looked very responsible — and electable. Palin is decidedly not Nixon. Still… a famous old strategy for someone dismissed as not being able to win can still be a good one.
And based on her Iowa appearance and the response from the crowd watching her newsworthy re-emergence on Hannity, Palin may suddenly be a serious threat not just to Romney but every other GOP candidate as well.
Palin will make her decision by the end of this month or early September, she has said.