After O’Donnell drama, Palin to go ahead with Iowa event

Share via

Sarah Palin, whose schedule is subject to more drama than any nonpresidential candidate we can think of, will be in Iowa on Saturday, as planned. An erroneous report in the Wall Street Journal citing unnamed sources claimed she had canceled an appearance at a Tea Party of America rally over disagreements with the organizers.

She had not canceled, said someone close to her; she had put her appearance “on hold” while her staff and the event organizers worked out whether Christine O’Donnell, the former Republican U.S. Senate candidate who has a new memoir out, would be on the program.

According to the Palin source who spoke on condition of anonymity, O’Donnell had contacted Ken Crow, a rodeo champ and co-organizer of the Iowa event, and said that Palin wanted her to be on the program. But Palin, said the source, had not been in touch with O’Donnell recently and did not appreciate the “misrepresentation.”


Crow had apparently not checked with Palin’s staff, before inviting, then disinviting O’Donnell (twice).

“I’m a dumb West Texas cowboy,” a somewhat beleaguered Ken Crow told us this afternoon. “None of us have a high-profile political background, nor understand it. We don’t know what protocols are or any of that stuff.”

One of Crow’s problems, he said, was figuring out exactly who Palin’s “people” were -- more on which below.

Palin’s Iowa speech, in a hot air balloon field south of Des Moines, is much anticipated by folks who hope she’ll give a hint about whether she plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination. On Aug. 12, the day before the Ames straw poll, she dropped in on the Iowa State Fair and was mobbed by fans and reporters. At the time, she said she would announce a decision by the end of September.

Whether she gets into the race or not, Palin is a figure of stature and fascination in the conservative movement and her every move is carefully watched and dissected. Outside of her very tight circle, no one knows what she will do.

But there is endless speculation, which she seems to thrive on. But only up to a point.

Last week, she had a little tangle with Karl Rove, who said on TV that her schedule appeared to be one of a presidential candidate.


Palin took the mild observation badly. “Any professional pundit claiming to have ‘inside information’ regarding Governor Palin’s personal decision is not only wrong but their comments are specifically intended to mislead the American people,” said a message on her Facebook page.

Rove later said she needed a thicker skin. “She is all upset about this, saying that somehow I am trying to sabotage her in some way and how dare I speculate on her future,” Rove told Greta Van Susteren. “If she doesn’t want to be speculated about as a presidential candidate, there’s an easy way to end the speculation: Simply say, ‘I am not running.’ ”

Palin delights in keeping the media off balance; she does not disseminate her schedule and her small staff generally does not respond to press inquiries. Over Memorial Day, on the first leg of her “One Nation” tour in a brightly festooned bus that looked very much like a campaign vehicle, reporters had to scramble to figure out where she was going. In most cases, they simply gave chase to her bus.

Had she canceled Saturday’s Tea Party of America speech, she would have discombobulated more than the media. She would have left hundreds, possibly thousands, of disappointed supporters in her wake. Many are coming to Iowa on chartered buses from other states -- Florida, California, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, to name a few.

Crow and his partner, Iowa businessman Charlie Gruschow, have not put on an event like this before, and have discovered the hard way that the competing interests who swirl around Palin can present difficulties for political novices.

A California attorney who has spent months in Iowa making contacts and building support for Palin inserted himself into the planning for Saturday’s event early on, complicating things for Crow.


The attorney, Peter Singleton, is not officially affiliated with SarahPAC, Palin’s political arm, but has anointed himself her man in Iowa. During her visit to the fair, she invited Singleton to join her and her family for lunch. When Singleton contacted the Tea Party of America, Crow said, he and his partners did not realize that Singleton did not work for SarahPAC.

“Peter comes riding in on a big white horse. ‘You guys are gonna need a big stage and a bucolic setting.’ I didn’t even know what ‘bucolic’ means,” Crow said. “Long story short, we’re doing all this stuff, and jumping through these hoops, up to and including ordering the bomb-sniffingdogs that we needed because he said Gov. Palin is more threatened than the president, which I find hard to believe.”

Later, said Crow, he received phone calls from Palin’s chief of staff, Michael Glassner, and her staffer Jason Recher, who handles security and crowd control for her (and who, it should be noted, managed to gracefully shepherd a crush of reporters and fans that surrounded Palin for hours at the state fair).

“They said, ‘Cancel the bomb dogs, the helicopters, the SWAT teams,’ ” Crow said. “They said, ‘Look, technically, all the governor needs is a bale of hay, a bullhorn and a couple of people to talk to.’ ”

Singleton did not return phone calls and emails.

Palin plans two appearances in Iowa. On Friday, she plans to appear at a Conservatives4Palin meet-up in Des Moines. After Iowa, Palin is to fly to New Hampshire, where she is scheduled to give a speech at a Tea Party Express rally in Manchester on Monday afternoon.

So was Karl Rove right?

Stay tuned.