Iowa’s County Republican chairmen tired of Palin ‘toying with the public’
By Hannah Hess | IowaPolitics.com
IOWA CITY — Will she or won’t she? The patience of many county-level Iowa Republican leaders is wearing thin after months of speculation about the prospective presidential campaign of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The GOP chairman of Iowa’s reddest county said he finds Palin’s “toying with the public” frustrating.
“I have a real problem with this teasing and may-she or may-she-not-run,” said Sioux County Republican Party Chairman Mark Lundberg. “That gets old.”
Campaigns frequently call Lundberg, asking for key people to help spread their messages. For declared presidential candidates, he said he happily passes the information along to the party faithful.
But when activists leading a grassroots charge for Palin approached Lundberg this summer, requesting access to the county-wide network of Republican contacts, he resisted.
“I don’t want to take my time and resources and volunteers to spend time on an unannounced candidate,” Lundberg said.
Questions have been swirling about a possible Palin presidential campaign for months. When she resigned as governor in July 2009 on the lawn of her Wasilla, Alaska, home, people began guessing about her ambitions.
Within months, California lawyer and political activist Peter Singleton moved to Iowa to begin building support for a potential 2012 Palin presidential campaign. Singleton, who is not connected with Palin or her team, has been reaching out to GOP chairmen in counties statewide, attempting to build momentum.
“It’s hard for people to engage when they don’t know what’s happening here,” said Muscatine County GOP Chairman Mark LeRette, one of the leaders Singleton contacted.
LeRette has allowed Palin supporters to address the 20- to 30-person monthly Republican central committee meetings in Muscatine County, but said a firm block of Palin supporters has yet to emerge.
“She’s giving her competitors time to work the state and, this being a retail politics state, shake hands and have people decide, ‘This is who I’m going to support,’” said LeRette, who has endorsed former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
In Sioux County, Lundberg said other presidential campaigns have picked up many of key Republican supporters.
“Might some of them bail out and go to the Palin camp? Sure, that might happen,” Lundberg said. “But I think for the most part, it will be hard to pull them away.”
Palin will be a viable candidate if she joins the race, Lundberg said, but the guessing game could hurt her candidacy. Lundberg has not endorsed a 2012 candidate, but said he expects to do so before the caucuses in February.
“When her documentary came out, they were gung ho about having a showing here, but I said, ‘We’re not going to support anything, unless the governor herself comes here,’” Lundberg said.
In late June, Palin instead attended a Pella screening of “The Undefeated,” a film based on her early days in Alaska and rise to prominence as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008. A crowd of 300 packed the historic Pella Opera House for the debut. She said at the time that she was contemplating a decision on the presidential race.
In August, Palin raised more speculation about a potential run when she visited the state one day before the Ames Straw Poll in mid-August.
Her appearance at the Iowa State Fair attracted a swarm of media attention. While eight of the declared candidates stumped from hay bales on a political soapbox, Palin and her husband roamed the grounds, flanked by reporters and fans.
During that visit, Palin repeated what has become her standard response to questions about a 2012 campaign. The “August-September timeline is very important for logistical and legal reasons to jump in there,” she said.
Because Iowans could hear Palin’s decision in September, excitement has been building for her scheduled appearance Saturday in Indianola at a Tea Party of America event.
Wapello County GOP Chairwoman Trudy Caviness said she knows of about 20 Republicans in her area looking forward to attending the event, scheduled to be held at the field where the National Balloon Classic is held each year.
When contacted by Singleton, Caviness offered to send an email to her local contacts to publicize efforts for Palin. The former governor has a group of supporters that “follow her and they speak very highly of her,” in Ottumwa, Caviness said.
Palin supporters also are keeping a high profile in the Council Bluffs region, said Pottawattamie County GOP Chairman Jeff Jorgensen. Volunteers in Palin T-shirts filled sandbags along the banks of the Missouri River to fight the flooding there this summer, and staffed their own booth at the west fair.
Palin “is aware of their efforts,” Jorgensen said, “and I don’t think she’s the type of person that would lead them along and not announce anything. That would be coldhearted.”
At the county’s monthly Republican central committee meetings, six of the 35 to 40 people who regularly attend are Palin supporters who work to sign up other volunteers, Jorgensen said. They would welcome her into the race and he would too, he said, although he has endorsed former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
“Based on the polling and everything else, I’d say she’s got a good shot. She is a very charismatic person — I mean, she can turn things around on a dime,” Jorgensen said. “She’s got enough star power.”
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