Folks who think Sarah Palin's new deal to appear on Fox News is a sure sign she will run for president in 2012 will be disappointed.
The former Alaska governor's new job as a Fox commentator is, in reality, a sure sign not only won't she won't make the next presidential race — she isn't likely to seek any elective office again.
The thinking among those who see presidential portents in Palin's Fox gig seems to be that she intends to use her TV time as a platform on which to build a White House bid.
The problem with that is that Fox has given no indication that it intends to allow this arrangement with Palin to become her quasi-campaign organ.
By that I mean that Palin doesn't get Fox's airtime all to herself. Fox may, and probably will, have all manner of potential Palin rivals appear on its programs between now and November 2012. Clearly such potential Palin challengers for the next GOP nomination as Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, also regularly hold forth on Fox, speaking to the same audience Palin now does.
If a spot on Fox was really to be the defining vehicle that sets a Palin candidacy on course, I can't believe any candidate would want to share it with her rivals.
Further, a job as a regular talking head is probably the last thing a serious national candidate would take. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true.
"The danger is that any time hundreds if not thousands of hours of a candidate on television exist, there's always the chance for a mistake," Republican strategist Todd Harris told the Washington Post. "Once it's on TV, that video lives forever."
If Palin were to run, Democrats would simply roll tape on any gaffe or miscue she would have made, and after her experiences with the media as the No. 2 on the McCain ticket, I'm certain she realizes this.
Then, of course, there is the simple fact that even in today's Web and celebrity saturated culture, media access and notoriety alone does not a candidacy make.
If media exposure were what really counted, Hillary Clinton's office today would be at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., not at Foggy Bottom. At the start of the 2008 race, it was Clinton who was the celebrity while the junior senator from Illinois was hardly a household. Barack Obama ultimately overcame Clinton on the strength of his organizing among Democrats in the states — the "ground war" versus the "air war" of television.
Republicans Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are already working the states to lay the groundwork for their anticipated runs for the 2012 nomination. Palin, however, famously has struggled to put that kind of formal structure in place since she and John McCain lost to Obama more than a year ago.
This is not to say Palin isn't popular among conservatives — she is wildly so.
Palin, though, seems set to treat these supporters more like a fan base than a political constituency. And she seems happier to cash in as a media star than to build a movement.
Certainly, a conservative politician looking foremost to build a serious candidacy would have agreed to address the coming tea party convention no questions asked. The fact that Palin is receiving a $100,000 check for that for that speech tells me that something else is going on.
Indeed, Palin has become something of a Britney Spears in politics. Like Spears, she goes on tour (to promote her book, <i>Going Rogue</i>). She sells her book like the pop diva sells her albums. And no Palin even gets her own TV specials. All that's missing its the ancillary merchandising.
Lastly, given this burgeoning and lucrative media empire that she is creating, the last thing Palin would want to do is stand for election because there would be — yes, truly — the chance that should would lose.
If Palin keeps just doing what she's doing, and stays coy about the future, she stays in the spotlight, and the cash and adulation keep coming.
But if Palin were to jump in, only to go down to defeat, all of that potential, that promise, conservatives see in her now would instantly evaporate. Her friends at Fox News, and everybody else, would turn their heads to look for the next It girl or guy to become the face of the Republican Party.
Sarah Palin would become a has-been. Now, in Washington, we have think tanks and lobbying shops and all sorts of comfy nooks and crannies for the has-beens of both parties to occupy.
From what I hear, though, not so many in WasillaPowered by Sidelines