The brilliance of Sarah Palin: Response mechanisms, activate

Here’s a secret: today is July 3. Nothing happens in the mass media without people carefully planning it (unless you’re caught hiking the Apalachian Trail in Argentina). So Sarah Palin’s announcement today that she was calling it quits as governor of Alaska was timed carefully for a huge impact in the media. What gives?

First, let’s look at the date. July 3 is the last real news day before a long U.S. holiday weekend. This means in the United States news that breaks today will reverberate without distraction over a quiet weekend of car traffic and barbecues. Announce something on the 3rd, people will remember it, and there will be a pronounced pause before reporters or analysts can chase you down for a critical response.

Second, let’s look at the message. Sarah Palin is resigning from the governorship of Alaska for efficiency, to avoid lame-duck wastefulness, to not be like other governors, to free herself up for other forms of service. It’s pretty clear that people in Alaska will be upset and viewers in the other 49 states are intrigued. Palin has just launched herself into a national political spotlight.

Third, let’s look at the controversy. Yes, it’s unusual to back out of an elected post. But if Palin were to begin a bid for the 2012 presidential election with paid advertising, it would cost her more than $3-$5 million to run ads in one day in all the major U.S. dailies and broadcast networks for an official campaign launch. Instead, with one press statement, she’s achieved more than that in free publicity.

If the goal is to make an impression, Sarah has succeeded wildly. People are listening, they are attuned, they are wondering what message will come next. Liberals are secretly grousing, hearing a bold message on hold, the holiday here, little chance to dig in for a retort. Conservatives are rejoicing — we’re in the headlines, she’s doing something big, what will come next? Whatever one’s politics, all we can say is well played, Mrs. Palin, well played.

3 thoughts on “The brilliance of Sarah Palin: Response mechanisms, activate

  1. Well timed? Definitely.
    Sound strategy? Questionable.

    Sure, she has, once again, drawn the spotlight to herself. Nobody has doubted her ability to do that. But she did it at least a year too early to really matter for a 2012 run.

    She will fully energize her strongest supporters. But she all ready had that. However, she’s made her moderate supporters question her motives. And she’s made her critics laugh out loud.

    Now she has the media waiting with bated breath for her next message. The one that explains why all of this makes sense (because, really, nobody gets that just yet–her supporters are assuming she a sly fox playing out a carefully planned gambit, but everyone else thinks she’s ready to go make some money or getting out of the way of some as-yet-unknown scandal.) But the trouble is… when she delivers her next message, everyone will be listening very, very closely. It had better be a darn good message. One that resonates far beyond the boundaries of her strongest supporters. But what are the odds of that?

    If she’s really bailing to go make money or to dodge a scandal, whatever, good for her. But if she is jockeying for the presidency, she’ll now be the mayor of a small town who quit in the middle of her first term as governor running for the highest office in the land. That’ll be a challenge.

    Why not remain governor, run for the senate, put the experience question to bed once and for all (by actually getting some experience)?

    My hunch is she does not really have her eye on the presidency at all. There’s something else driving her agenda.

  2. This will sound like I’m her campaign manager, far from it though.


    There’s something to be said for announcing a run now instead of too far down the road. Yeah, it looks bad leaving before the end of the first term—Romney at least finished his out—but worse PR hits have happened to candidates and they’ve come through fine.

    I’m no Palin fan, but unless she’s stepping down to avoid a scandal we don’t know about, I think she does need to do this now (if this really is a run at 2012).

    Even with name recognition, a year out doesn’t matter anymore, you need to be 18 months out at least and thinking about stuff.

    Plus, you have midterms elections coming up where the GOP will definitely be taking advantage of what they perceive to be Obama’s over-ambition getting the best of him.

    They’ll do this by attacking and engaging using Obama’s social media strategy. Although if they’re not careful, they’ll just end up copying the tactics and not get the actual message right.

    One thing they’ve noticed though is how Obama increased his base by going outside it to the crossovers. You can hear it in all the GOP outlets as well as on the blogs and various forums. They need to reach out to the youth demo.

    People give Obama credit for using the online space to hit that demo, but that’s still just a conduit for the actual in-person fundraising and rallies that went on. That takes effective organizing on a street/local level.

    What better support for your midterm efforts than to have Palin campaigning for you doing just that? Reconnecting with people. Re-energizing a base. Hitting the colleges and so on.

    By doing this, she also gets the benefit of a soft presidential run for at least a year before ramping things up for real. Win-win!

    As for name recognition, that’s no small thing. (Gore blew it by disappearing after losing to Bush for this reason. He had a nice wave of sympathy he could’ve rode to the next election.)

    Palin didn’t lose the election, McCain did. She gave his campaign a huge spike and still polarizes. That’s no small thing. She knows America has a short memory and she’ll work real hard to fix the bugs in the next release of Palin 2.0.

    Now, all Palin has to do is pick the right running mate. I still go with Jeb Bush. He’s the smarter of the two. He owns Florida (no small deal in recent presidential elections). He also brings the name recognition the right loves and wishes were still in office…

    …in times like these.”

    Least that’s what I would recommend, you know, if I were running things for her. ;-p

  3. Or, she resigned when people weren’t paying attention, they were focused on the holiday, and she was getting in front of a bribery scandal.

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