It's clear to everyone now that Donald Trump had no intention, and no ability, to run for President. He was and remains the quintessential publicity hound and self promoter. But the launch of Sarah Palin's "One Nation" bus tour might make the Donald look a piker when it comes to leveraging 2012 for her own commercial purposes.
On the July 4th holiday in 2009, Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in her term. At the time, her spokesperson Meg Stapleton said: "She is not focused on 2012. She is focused on making a difference on the topics she finds so dear: energy independence [and] national security." I will let others decide whether or not she has focused on those policy matters, but I do agree that she has not been focusing on a run for President in 2012. To the contrary, she has instead been focusing on the booming industry that is Sarah Palin.
Four months after leaving the governorship, Palin released Going Rogue, a wildly successful book with a wildly successful book tour that included a bus tour to 11 states (sound familiar?) and media saturation on television, radio, and online. Palin received an advance of $7 million for her first book -- to say nothing of the royalties she received based on sales. In a clever political twist, she asked donors to her Political Action Committee to give $100 in exchange for a copy of her book. The Palin family's participation on reality television shows has raked in another $3 million. She currently earns around $100,000 for a single speech. Then there's the house in Arizona she recently purchased for $1.7 million.
In fact, ABC News estimated in April 2010 that Palin had earned at least 100 times her governor's salary since her resignation -- and that was more than a year ago. How rogue is that?
If you look at the route of Palin's upcoming bus tour, one thing stands out: it takes her right through the biggest media and consumer markets in the country. She can sell her wares here, but let's be clear: these are not strategic political states for Republican candidates for President.
In a canny move by her campaign, the only specific statement about tour destinations is that the tour "will end somewhere in New Hampshire." We've all heard political pundits breathlessly speculating that Palin is choosing to end the tour in New Hampshire because of its importance as a primary state, but the math doesn't add up. Why not Iowa? Why not South Carolina? What about swing states like Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico or Florida? It's simple: the New Hampshire destination draws the cameras and fuels the free media coverage of a potential run for President. Would the media be following the story if the bus tour started in Nebraska and ended in Wyoming? No.
During the first week of her book tour, we heard Palin herself respond to Oprah about whether she'd run for President in 2012: "I'm concentrating on 2010 ... [2012 is] not on my radar screen right now."
I believed Palin all along when she said she wasn't focused on 2012, when she resigned from her governorship, when she talked to Oprah, and I believe her now: Palin isn't thinking about running for President. She is thinking about Sarah Palin, Inc. The media this weekend will be covering this event like a political campaign, but it isn't. It's a book tour, a radio tour, and a marketing tour.
If I am wrong and she does run, so be it, I was wrong. But if I'm right, (wink, you know I am) she should come clean and admit that she never planned to run for President, but meticulously planned to leverage her VP candidacy for personal profit, starting with her resignation from her job she was elected to do in Alaska. She should apologize to her loyal fans for playing them for fools and return the PAC money she has spent on her self-promotion. Move over The Donald and make room for The Sarah.