Was Sarah Palin's proclamation, "If I were a South Carolinian, I'd vote for Newt" really an endorsement, or did she just want to keep the wounded elephant that is the current presidential GOP lineup limping forward as far as possible, before it collapses under the weight of its own unelectability? Correspondence from Palin seems to indicate the latter.
During Palin's VP candidacy, her relationship with Newt Gingrich was tumultuous at best. Emails sent on Palin's private Yahoo! account while she was governor, which (despite now being in the hands of the state of Alaska) have never been made available to the public, reveal that Newt had some avuncular words of wisdom for the greenhorn candidate:
She didn't need local and state allies, not with Newt Gingrich regularly emailing advice like suggesting she not answer difficult question and instead "she should reframe it into the question she wishes they asked," or better yet, "When your opponent has posed a question designed to put you on defense, the right strategy is to destroy the very legitimacy of the question and pose a new question of your own." [From Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin - A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years]
But after the unsuccessful campaign, the relationship between the two became more strained. Things came to a boiling point in the summer of 2009, just weeks before Palin quit the governorship of Alaska.
This transformation had to do with a speaking engagement on June 8 at the Washington D.C. Convention Center. Sarah was originally invited to be the keynote speaker at an annual congressional fundraising dinner. As was her custom, she hesitated before accepting and Gingrich was invited as a fall-back. A suddenly dis-invited and miffed Sarah threatened not to attend before begrudgingly relenting.
On June 7, the day before Gingrich's speech, Sarah wrote to her close inner-circle of administration confidants (including Frank Bailey):
Subject: Fw: Newt
...I don't know why we have to protect the elites who do things like this so we don't "ruffle feathers" by keeping it to ourselves. Newt "uninvited" me yesterday to speak at tomorrow's NSRC (sic for NRSC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee). I was the surprise guest ... I'd be sitting at his table, unannounced (though I think they were purposefully already leaking it, I know Meg (Stapleton) leaked it to Politico), then would get up to do a surprise speech and introduction of Newt. So... I went from being the invited keynote speaker back in February, to just the surprise introducer of the speaker this month, to the back-of-the-bus'er ("sit down and shut up") the day before the event. One of the organizers told Meg last night that Newt pulled the plug, said he didn't want me to "steal the show".
This has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the machine, and egos, and power. Their action...tells us they're not ready to walk the walk and reform the party...
It knocks the political wind right out of my gut - but really we shouldn't be surprised. And when I mentioned to Mike Reagan [Ronald Reagan's stepson and GOP commentator] the other night that I'd be referencing Newt in my introduction of him, he wasn't overly thrilled...maybe there's something others see in Newt... Keep this confidential until we figure out how I'm supposed to explain flying all the flippin' way across the country - leaving my baby at home - to be at this dinner, then we get accused of dodging the substantive events like the NSRC, when in reality they kicked us to the curb. I hate politics.
Later that day, Sarah added more insight:
...Yes, (Newt/GOP) are egotistical, narrow minded machine goons... but all the more reason God protected me from getting up on stage in front of 5000 political and media "elites" to praise him, then it be shown across the nation. At some point Newt would have shown his true colors anyway and we would have been devastated having known we'd earlier prostituted ourselves up in front of the country introducing him and acting like that good ol' rich white guy is the savior of the party.
Plus, I had nothing to wear, and God knew that too. Party machinery sucks. I can't tell you how much I hate it - nothing ever changes - we went through it before and after the VP campaign... I've gone through it all my career. We just don't fit into it, and maybe we should thank God for that. [From Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin - A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years]
Despite the good fortune of being saved from a wardroble gaffe by divine intervention, words of comfort and consolation came from Palin aide Ivy Frye: "Screw Newt, and let him take the heat for himself..."
None of this previous bad blood (of which Gingrich may or may not have been aware) seemed to dampen his enthusiasm over Sarah Palin's comments yesterday. Nor did her explanation that the reason she'd vote for him is simply to see the carnage continue seem to faze him. He said he was "thrilled" after talking to Todd Palin who had formally endorsed him last week, and went on "It's a signal to every conservative that the one conservative vote that's effective is to Newt Gingrich and that's very helpful."
Palin's desire to watch the five-way Republican cage fight is so appealing she told South Carolinians that she'd actually vote for the man she described as an "elite" "egotistical, narrow-minded machine goon" - a "good ol' rich white guy" whom Palin said she didn't even want to introduce to a crowd of a few thousand lest she "prostitute herself" in front of the nation.
We'll find out on Saturday if the Palin non-endorsement endorsement helps Gingrich carry the day, and whether Palin continues to urge American voters to cast their ballots for a man she actively dislikes.