Palin Plots Her Next Move

By Boyer, Peter J. | Newsweek, July 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Palin Plots Her Next Move


Boyer, Peter J., Newsweek


Byline: Peter J. Boyer

She hasn't jumped into the race for the White House (yet), but she believes the prize is there for the taking.

Sitting in the private dining room of a hotel in rural Iowa. The occasion for her visit to quintessential small-town America was a gathering of the faithful that would have instantaneously erupted into a fervent campaign rally had she but given the word. Instead, it had been another day on the non-campaign trail, this one capped by a sweet victory: she had just attended the premiere of a glowingly positive documentary about her titled The Undefeated.

"The people of America are desperate for positive change, and deserving of positive change, to get us off of this wrong track," she told me during a conversation that lasted late into the night and, inevitably, kept returning to the subject that has titillated the media and spooked Republican presidential contenders for months: her political intentions. "I'm not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around," she said. "But I do believe that I can win."

Two years after stepping down as governor of Alaska--not a retreat, she later said of the decision, quoting Korean War general Oliver Smith, but "advancing in another direction"--Palin has proved herself an enduring force capable, with minimal effort, of keeping political professionals and, especially, the press in a state of perpetual imbalance. This derives partly, of course, from her standing as a possible presidential candidate with presumed frontrunner potential, a status she seems inclined to maintain for as long as possible. On the day we met, her daughter Bristol had declared in a television interview that Palin had already made a decision about whether to run for president--an assertion that Palin quickly tried to shoot down. "I think Bristol has made up her mind, and Bristol wants me to run for president," she said. "But we're still thinking about it. I'm still thinking about it."

If Palin doesn't end up running, the reason will be simple, she said. "Family. If it came down to the family just saying, 'Please, Mom, don't do this,' then that would be the deal-killer for me, because your family's gotta be in it with you."

Family has been elemental to Palin's national political identity from the moment she was introduced as John McCain's running mate in 2008, accompanied by her outdoorsman husband, Todd, and four of their five children, including their youngest, Trig, who'd been born four months earlier with Down syndrome. The press's fascination with this picturesque brood quickly turned so darkly speculative that candidate Barack Obama threatened to fire anyone in his campaign found participating in the conjectures.

Yet Palin, who is 47, now hinted that her family would not try to dissuade her from entering the race. "My kids know that life isn't supposed to be easy, and it's certainly not fair," she said. "And they know that, even on their end, they have to make some sacrifices for the greater good."

Track, the eldest son, who was deployed in Iraq during the 2008 campaign, is now married and running the family's commercial fishing business in Alaska, living quietly out of the public eye. Willow, who turned 17 last week, seems amenable ("As long as her truck's running, she's fine," Palin said), and Piper, who is 10, is a seasoned campaigner. Bristol's all in. That leaves Todd, who sat in on part of the interview. "Do I want her to run?" he said. "It's up to her. I mean, we'll discuss it. But she's definitely qualified to run this country. And she's got a fire in the belly to serve."

Whatever decision Palin makes will alter the near-ideal circumstance she enjoys now. From the remove of her cyber-perches on Twitter and Facebook, and the occasional appearance on Fox News (where she is a paid contributor), Palin is able to do plenty of politicking, unfettered by the encumbrances of a declared candidacy. …

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