Grassroots conservative bloggers were once Sarah Palin’s most relentless supporters. Now, though the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee says she’s “seriously interested” in a possible 2016 bid for the White House, many of the same people say they’ve moved on.
Cementing Palin’s lowered status in their minds was her much-examined speech over the weekend at a conservative summit in Iowa, attended by several potential GOP presidential candidates. A large portion of Palin’s speech was dedicated to responding to several critical news reports about her personal life. At one point, it seemed her TelePrompter went out, forcing her to ad lib.
Washington Examiner Chief Political Correspondent Byron York described Palin’s speech as “quite petty.” Others in conservative media felt the same.
“Frankly, I don't think that she’s going to be much of an issue in this cycle,” Ed Morrissey, senior editor at the conservative Hot Air blog, told the Washington Examiner media desk. He said Palin doesn’t appear to have made any concrete steps toward declaring a candidacy and that she’s “mostly just a speaker.” He said her speech in Iowa “wasn’t well prepared.”
Morrissey, like other conservative bloggers who have moved on from Palin, was once an admirer of the former Alaska governor. One of the many reasons she was seen as such an attractive political figure is that many of her fans believe she was unfairly treated by the national press during and after the 2008 presidential election.
“Does the press ever tire of underestimating Sarah Palin?” Morrissey wrote in one blog post in 2010.
But for Morrissey and other former fans of Palin in the blogsphere, the routine of rallying behind her every time she made a public move got old.
Ben Domenech co-founded the grassroots conservative RedState blog and now serves as publisher of the online conservative magazine The Federalist. He wrote before the 2012 election that Palin, had she decided to run then, would have been a “real threat” to take the White House. That's no longer the case.
“The grassroots and the conservative media that may still have a soft spot for Palin has generally moved on,” Domenech said. “Maybe they’re a little tired of having to defend her. Maybe they’re a little tired of her kind of approach to speechmaking and that could end up putting her in a position where even if she has a lot of sympathy, they really don’t view that support as transitioning to a presidential run.”
Other potential Republican candidates, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, can capture the enthusiasm of the same voters that Palin did before, Domenech said.
After President Obama won the 2008 election, Gabriel Malor, a writer for the conservative Ace of Spades HQ blog, often tweeted in defense of Palin, who is regularly mocked by liberals as an incompetent opportunist. Malor offers no such defense for Palin these days.
“Sarah Palin is not a credible personality in GOP politics. She is done,” he said. “Seven years ago she was a symbol of hope for Republican voters who were tired of the same old thing from the party. But, while she quit her office and played the ‘aw shucks’ routine all over the country, the hardworking conservatives of the Tea Party were showing that they could actually win elections. They have no need turn back to Palin now to find a serious 2016 contender.”
Ben K., an anonymous conservative who also blogs for Ace of Spades, also said Palin likely gave up any potential career in elected office when she resigned from her governorship midway through her first term. He suggested that her flirtation with a White House bid before the 2012 race was more an attempt to promote her books and career as a media personality.
“She has managed to create a niche for herself within the conservative movement since that time,” Ben said. “I would lump her in with Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and anyone else who happens to be selling a new book around the same time the Republican presidential primaries are taking place.”
Since her resignation from office, Palin’s time spent raking in money as an author, speaker and reality show star did seem to rub many of her hardcore fans the wrong way.
“If she’s got the fire in her belly and believes she’s got a shot, she should go on stage and make her argument,” said Ben Howe, a blogger for RedState. “I’m just not sure her argument will be all that compelling and the cynical side of me worries that being in the ‘maybe I’ll run for president’ camp is just the business she’s chosen.”
Leon Wolf, another RedState blogger, shared the sentiment. “I lost a ton of respect for her in the run up to 2012 as she clearly, deliberately drew out an announcement about whether the was going to run or not so as to maximize her exposure with the press,” he said. “I think at this point she is going to attempt the same thing in 2016 but she will likely find that she has burned her bridges with all but her most committed followers such that she won't be treated seriously by a critical enough mass of actual Republican primary voters that it will matter.”
Palin retains a few fans among conservative bloggers. One longtime Palin fan who writes for the conservative Breitbart News Network said he believes most of Palin’s core supporters will stick around as long as she does.
“I think grassroots media have always been on her side because how the mainstream media dismisses and diminishes her is similar to how they treat grassroots activists and grassroots media,” he told the Examiner, on condition of anonymity. “So, there has always been that kinship.”
The Breitbart writer said, though, that Palin’s online video channel might get in her way if she seriously wanted to consider running for president.
“She has said repeatedly that she wants to run for office again," he said. "But not sure that's in 2016 because she has that Sarah Palin Channel and would have to wind that down, so that seems complicated.”