It’s no secret that Mitt Romney’s campaign has not asked Sarah Palin to speak at the Republican National Convention next month. According to Newsweek’s Peter J. Boyer, the Romney camp hasn’t contacted her about even attending the Grand Old Party’s party in Tampa:
Queries to the Romney camp about any possible Palin role at the convention meet with a stony silence. Palin does not seem surprised. “What can I say?” she responded in an email from Alaska, when asked by Newsweek about the convention, just before heading to Michigan to deliver an Obama-thumping speech. “I’m sure I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy, and engaging in crony capitalism.”
“In accepting those consequences,” she added, “one must remember this isn’t Sadie Hawkins and you don’t invite yourself and a date to the Big Dance.”
“Romney has said before that he doesn’t want to have to light his hair on fire,” Palin said on Fox last week. “Well, there are a lot of his base supporters, independents, who are saying, ‘Well, light our hair on fire, then!’” Palin’s objections to Romney are not so much about the man himself — she speaks of him respectfully, as he does about her — but about who, and what, he represents. Romney was the choice of the party’s elites, whom Palin has regarded with open disdain ever since her rough treatment during the 2008 campaign. They are some of the same people who anonymously disparaged Palin as a clueless bumpkin, and some of them are now helping to run Romney’s campaign.
The Romney camp will not comment on Palin, or on plans for the convention, but one adviser associated with the campaign suggested that Palin would be prohibited from speaking at the Republican convention by her contract with Fox News. “It’s true I’m prohibited from doing some things,” Palin says, “but this is the first I’ve heard anyone suggest that as an excuse, er, reason to stay away from engaging in the presidential race. I’m quite confident Fox’s top brass would never strip anyone of their First Amendment rights in this regard.” (Fox says her contract would not prohibit speaking at the convention if she sought permission.)
Palin is keeping the dates open in late August, just in case. In any event, she says, she plans to be politically active between now and November, starting with a Michigan Tea Party appearance, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. “No matter the Romney campaign strategy,” she says, “I intend to do all I can to join others in motivating the grassroots made up of independents and constitutional conservatives who can replace Barack Obama at the ballot box.”
Palin’s admirers—and they are many, judging by Facebook and Twitter metrics, where her numbers are far greater than Romney’s — still hope for a rapprochement. “Palin is the female Ronald Reagan of our time,” says Kremer of the Tea Party Express. “There’s no one that excites the base, and energizes the base, the way that Sarah Palin does. There’s just not.”
Despite the risks, Team Romney may be well advised to consider bringing Palin inside the tent. Whether she’s in Tampa for the convention or not, she will be out there somewhere, and talking.
Even if Romney’s campaign completely snubs Gov. Palin at the convention, she will have a presence there. As the Tampa Bay Times reported in April, SarahPAC has reserved space in Tampa the week of the big event at a plaza within easy walking distance from the convention hall. Team Romney can ignore her, but they can’t get her to sit down and shut up.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. During the primaries, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum said things about Gov. Romney far more damaging than anything even hinted at by Sarah Palin. Yet the Romney people sat down with both of these former rivals and worked things out, even getting the two to campaign for him. Since Romney’s forces were able to bury the hatchet with Newt and Rick, they should have no problem coming to an accommodation with Mama Grizzly. That is, if Romney really wants to reach out to her and the millions of Tea Party activists he will need on his side to defeat Barack Obama in November.