Risking her reputation as a true conservative who will only endorse candidates who share her core principles, Sarah Palin endorsed the moderate Terry Branstad yesterday for Iowa's governor over the more conservative candidates who actually do share those core principles. Her Facebook fans are none too happy. "Bad endorsement," they say. "Branstad and his ilk are about as opposite of Tea Party/conservative types as anyone," and "What are you thinking?"
The comments go on.
Here's what she's thinking: Branstad is going to win. And Palin's going to run, and she's thinking that come 2012, she needs to win theIowa Republican caucus; one of the first in the nation and the one that garners the most media attention. She knows she won't be able to do so without significant support from a homegrown political heavyweight. Like a Republican governor, even though he might (and probably will) be one of those politicians who ends up on Palin's crosshairs.
I'm from Iowa, so I know a little about the state. And I know that Iowa is not Sarah Palin country. With the endorsement, Palin is signaling that she knows it also and that she's going to need help there.
Sure, Iowa has its Christian right factions, but those factions are different than say, the Christian right in Kansas, or Missouri. Iowa's got long, strong roots, roots which the state clings proudly to. Even the evangelical community knows that Iowa is, and has long been, progressive country.
Its public schools were desegregated nearly a century ahead of 1954's Brown vs. the Board of Education. The state was the first to admit a woman to the bar, in 1869 -- three years before the Supreme Court ruled that states could deny women the right to practice law. And, more recently, Iowa's Supreme Court was the first in the nation to rule it unconstitutional to ban gays from marrying. More than 50 percent of the state supports the decision.
She's not going to be able to do much with her gun shtick in Iowa. Guns aren't a big rallying point there. With little crime and with all the hunting land turned into farm and grazing land, there really isn't much use for them. In Iowa, they eat therefore they build factory farms.
Drill baby, drill? No oil there. And Iowans like their fuel mixed with a heavy dose of ethanol, much to the chagrin of the oil industry.
Immigration? Pretty white in Iowa.
But more than the specifics, there's that general flashy, edgy snarky thingy she's got. It doesn't go down with those folks. Iowa's Christian right doesn't much like that edge. There's a reason those big mega churches with those big pastors with their big white smiles and their flashing stage props never really took hold in Iowa.
Mitt Romney had the similar problem there. His smile was too white and bright. His hair too perfect. His talking points too aimed at getting them angry. He spent a fortune in Iowa in 2008, and he lost to Mike Huckabee who only spent a fraction of what Romney did, crooked teeth and all.
Huckabee charmed Iowa, not by only throwing red meat to the crowd, but by being humble. I was visiting during campaign season, and I could see that they flocked to him because he was nice. His kind of Christianity worked in Iowa. Iowans, by and large, can spot the meek. And they relate. They still believe that they will inherit the earth. Palin will need lots of help getting them to forget that.
Amanda Coyne writes for AlaskaDispatch.com.