06.29.11

Sarah Palin the Undefeated

The ex-governor remains coy about running in 2012, at the Iowa premiere of a documentary called 'The Undefeated' that touts her accomplishments. Her decision is eagerly awaited by avid Iowa fans, including some who’ve moved to the state to work for her, reports Shushannah Walshe.

Sarah Palin’s insistence Tuesday that she’s “still thinking about it” and it’s a “tough decision” whether to run for the Republican nomination guaranteed that the will-she or won’t-she 2012 dance continued on her visit to Iowa.

Palin traveled to the small town of Pella on Tuesday evening for the premiere of the pro-Palin documentary, The Undefeated, and a barbecue in her honor. She was greeted by crowds of supporters and the press—both wanting to know if she had come to a decision.

The documentary—which aims to reframe the Palin narrative and focus on her accomplishments as governor—was screened at the Pella opera house. When Palin and husband, Todd, entered the historic building, she told reporters her mind was not made up.

"It's a tough decision, it's a big decision to decide whether to run for office or not. I'm still contemplating," Palin said. "I am still thinking about the decision and you know a lot goes into such a life-changing, relatively earth-shattering type of decision.”

Dressed casually in a denim shirt and blue jeans, she continued to be evasive, even when pressed on her daughter Bristol’s revealing comments Tuesday morning on Fox News that her mother “definitely knows” whether she is going to run for the presidency or not, adding that she “absolutely” thinks her mom should go for it. Palin said she texted her daughter to ask her what she had said on the morning show.

“I said, ‘What did you say this morning, honey?'" Palin told reporters gathered at the opera house. "I told Bristol, too, what is talked about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat."

"I told Bristol what is talked about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat."

Insiders continue to stress that a decision probably will not be announced before fall, but even they concede they may find out right before the rest of the world.

Palin has no paid staff on the ground in the crucial state, but that does not mean she doesn’t have people working on her behalf—quite the contrary. She has an army of volunteers, led by an attorney from California who has completely relocated to Iowa to organize for Palin.

Peter Singleton has fully committed himself to the task, even though he says he has never met Palin. Surprisingly, he didn’t even take the opportunity to meet her at the screening, although he helped the team of conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon—who put up $1 million of his own money to make the film—organize invites for the post-screening barbecue. “She doesn’t need to talk to me to have my support,” he explained.

Singleton spends his days and nights going to county GOP meetings across the state and urging caucus-goers to support Palin…all before she has made up her mind, at least according to the former governor.

“I’ve got a mission. I want to see us elect the right leader. The stakes are incredibly high and I think she is our best candidate,” Singleton told The Daily Beast.

Besides her husband, joining Palin at the screening was SarahPAC staffer Rebecca Mansour, and longtime friend Kristan Cole, who also appears in the film. Bannon uses Palin friends, former staffers, and even conservative agitators to defend Palin, explain her Alaska record, and describe her conversion from bipartisan problem-solver to conservative superstar. Two of those starring in the film, Andrew Breitbart and Tammy Bruce, also were on hand in Pella for the premiere.

Breitbart told The Daily Beast this was his first trip to Iowa and that he found Pella “positively charming.” Despite his role as defender, Breitbart added he’s only a “casual observer of Sarah Palin and the media phenomenon,” and the film is “vindication” for Palin. He’s not ready to back a potential Palin bid just yet though, saying he also likes Michele Bachmann.

After the screening, Palin addressed the crowd and then greeted masses of camera-phone-snapping supporters—about 1,000 in attendance—at the post-premiere cookout. She sat at tables—where people munched on pulled-pork sandwiches and potato salad—and mingled with the locals, many of them grassroots activists who’ll be essential for a caucus battle, if she does get into the race.

One of those activists who have steadfastly supported her is Shane Vander Hart. He also was at the screening, and says Palin would quickly catch fire in the state if she entered the race, citing the grassroots support she already has. “People will be surprised if she doesn’t run,” Vander Hart said. “It’s a little unconventional, but she won’t start from scratch.”

Before the screening, Palin toured Pella, but she also created a stir earlier in the day when she stopped for lunch at the chain restaurant, Panera, in a suburb of Des Moines. She lunched with her husband and also was joined by Iowa Republican fundraiser Becky Beach, and an owner of a string of Paneras in Iowa, Moe Sinclair.

The gathering immediately sparked speculation they were possibly discussing fundraising ahead of a possible bid, but Beach tells The Daily Beast it was more like “lunch with a friend” and they didn’t talk fundraising, although that’s how they originally met—when Beach raised money for the Republican Party of Iowa at a fundraiser last year where Palin spoke. Beach said on Tuesday no politics was discussed, but Beach is exactly the type of person Palin will need on the ground if she does decide to run.

“I have the utmost respect for her. We’ll wait and see what she decides to do,” Beach said when asked if she would fundraise on Palin’s behalf if she gets into the race. “She’s a wonderful woman and I wish her the best in anything she decides to do. I have no idea what she’s going to decide.”

Craig Robinson, former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, was at the screening and said both grassroots activists and more established conservative leaders were in attendance. “There were big-name people there that others would recognize. It was full of folks who are the ones you need to work on a campaign or move a message on the ground in Iowa,” Robinson said. “Has she done it like everybody else? No, but it appeals to people. If she gets into the race she’ll have a lot of support.”

Almost unbelievably, Singleton, the California attorney, stresses that he is completely separate from SarahPAC and does not coordinate or organize with them, saying he and the other volunteers, who are known as Organizing 4 Palin, are hitting the ground for the non-candidate without any direction from Palin or her staff.

“We’re completely independent. People are getting used to it. We go in early and we stay late,” Singleton said referring to the GOP meetings he constantly attends.

As for SarahPAC: “They are doing their thing, Sarah Palin is doing her thing, and we are doing our thing.”

The good news for Singleton and others like him, if Palin does jump in: She told RealClearPolitics on her way into the screening that she would be committed to the Iowa caucus process. She said, “110 percent. Doing as much as I can to garner that support. It's necessary."