Palin casts shadow as Republican frontrunner to declare his candidacy

Thu, Jun 2, 2011, 01:00

THE FRONT-RUNNER for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, will formally declare his candidacy in New Hampshire today.

Romney received 17.4 per cent of intended votes in the “Real Clear Politics” average for the April 10th to May 26th period. But the Gallup polling institute calls him “the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign”.

Romney’s announcement has been upstaged by the antics of the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who launched a “One Nation” roadshow wearing a black leather jacket and storming into Washington on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle on May 29th.

Palin’s bus, adorned with pictures of the Liberty Bell and the US constitution, will arrive in New Hampshire just in time to divert media attention from Romney.

In a May 26th Gallup poll, Palin scored almost even with Romney. Yet he may welcome a challenge from her, in the belief that Republicans will see him as a safe alternative to her erratic behaviour and gaffes.

Many analysts had written her off last winter, when she released a self-pitying video saying her adversaries committed a “blood libel” by linking her use of gun metaphors to a mass shooting in Tucson.

Palin and her family met the property magnate Donald Trump and his wife, the Slovenian-born model Melania, to eat pizza near Times Square in Manhattan on Tuesday night.

Trump recently dropped out of the contest for the Republican nomination. On a visit to Ellis Island yesterday, Palin said she and Trump discussed “trade . . . what it is we can do with China and some of these other countries that are speeding past us”.

Palin called Ellis Island “one of the symbols of course of our country, and . . . a reminder too that immigrants built this country.”

That did not, however, soften her heart towards present-day immigrants.

“The immigrants of the past, they had to literally and figuratively stand in line to become US citizens,” she said. “I’d like to see that continue.”

Palin’s bus tour has overshadowed coverage of all other Republican hopefuls. She is coy about her intentions, though her trip to New Hampshire, where the first Republican primary will take place next February, and her stated intention to visit Iowa, where a Republican straw poll will be held on August 13th, fuel speculation that she may seek the nomination.

While other candidates court media attention, Palin relies on her website, SarahPAC.com, and Fox News – which pays her $1 million annually – to convey her message of militant motherhood, patriotism and Christianity.

She refuses to release her itinerary in advance.

“I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media,” she told her on-air confidante, Greta Van Susteren of Fox. “I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop’s going to be.”

Although Romney made the obligatory pilgrimage to Bible Belt Iowa last week, he has concentrated on the more sophisticated state of New Hampshire, where he owns a home, and which is contiguous to Massachusetts, the state he governed for four years.

He holds degrees in law and business from Harvard, was a successful management consultant, founded a private equity firm and was the chief executive for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. He is regarded as non-ideological and pragmatic – characteristics also attributed to Obama.

Like the former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, another Republican contender, Romney is a Mormon.

As Ryan Lizza points out in the New Yorkermagazine, Republicans were for health-care reform – including the “individual mandate”, which they now vehemently oppose, and ‘cap and trade’ greenhouse emissions control – before they turned against them.

Romney’s candidacy is the best illustration of this fickleness. As governor of Massachusetts, he worked with the late senator Ted Kennedy to enact health-care reform, signing a law in April 2006 that established near universal coverage in that state.

The Massachusetts law was long celebrated as an achievement. But after Obama modelled his affordable care act on Romney’s legislation, it became Romney’s greatest handicap.