‘I believe that I can win a national election,’ Sarah Palin declared one recent evening, sitting in the private dining room of a hotel in rural Iowa. The occasion for her visit to quintessential small-town America was a gathering of the faithful that would have instantaneously erupted into a fervent campaign rally had she but given the word. Instead, it had been another day on the non–campaign trail, this one capped by a sweet victory: she had just attended the premiere of a glowingly positive documentary about her titled The Undefeated.
“The people of America are desperate for positive change, and deserving of positive change, to get us off of this wrong track,” she told me during a conversation that lasted late into the night and, inevitably, kept returning to the subject that has titillated the media and spooked Republican presidential contenders for months: her political intentions. “I’m not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around,” she said. “But I do believe that I can win.”
Turning to the political landscape, Palin said that President Obama is beatable in 2012, and that there are “many, many qualified and able candidates out there” to take him on.
Asked what was to be made of the fact that so many Republicans were looking beyond the field of declared candidates to people like herself, and Govs. Rick Perry and Chris Christie, Palin said, “It suggests that the field is not set. Thank goodness the field is not yet set. I think that there does need to be more vigorous debate. There needs to be a larger field. And there’s still time. There’s still months ahead, where more folks can jump in and start articulating their positions.”
Newsweek also spoke with Iowa Organize4Palin volunteers, Peter Singleton and Michelle McCormick:
“She did not sit out the Tea Party,” says Peter Singleton, who is perhaps the archetype of the Palin true believer, a Palo Alto, Calif., attorney who picked up and moved to Iowa to begin organizing for what he believes will be a Palin run for the presidency. Singleton has been in Iowa for eight months, meeting with Republican leaders in every corner of the state and building a network of volunteers. He has never met Palin.
It was Singleton who was Bannon’s man on the ground for the Pella event, producing a crowd from the list of names he has amassed. He has undertaken the Iowa mission on his own dime. Asked how he finances his effort, he replied, “You burn through your savings.”
At Singleton’s side in Pella was another such Palin volunteer, Michelle McCormick, who has become a familiar face in Iowa, even though she lives and works in the Dallas–Ft. Worth area. She so believes in the Palin enterprise that she travels to Iowa every weekend to work the Republican precincts with Singleton. “I don’t even have a plant in my apartment so I can do this,” she says. “I have no social life. But I’ve met a lot of friends … It’s just different.”
Singleton and McCormick firmly believe that Palin will run, and that it is their task to prepare the way for her. And, Singleton is certain, Palin will be ready, too. “Governor Palin has people who are providing policy research, and that’s how she’s producing these pithy analyses of policy issues,” he says. “You might say, ‘Well, they don’t sound like policy-wonk, nine-page white papers from the IMF.’ Well, yeah. That’s by design.”
In her discussion of spending, the debt ceiling, and inflation, Governor Palin exhibits the practical, common sense understanding of policy that Singleton refers to:
Back in the private dining room in Pella, Palin shared some of those policy positions. On the debt ceiling, she takes the hardline view. “It is not the apocalypse,” she said, and questioned the need for the urgent negotiating sessions Republicans and Democrats were conducting in search of a debt-limit agreement (ongoing at press time). “The fact is that we have $2.6 trillion in revenue coming in, and if we just use some common sense there—take that revenue, service the debt first, take care of national priorities—we don’t have to increase debt.”
Such an approach would require some drastic spending cuts, of the sort that can become politically uncomfortable for Republicans. Palin said bring it on. “There is so much spending that is not a priority for national security or for those constitutionally mandated services and accepted services that the public wants to see their federal government provide—take care of those things,” she said. “Everything else is going to have to wait, and that’s just reality.” She would like to revamp, or even eliminate, whole agencies—the Department of Energy, for example—as Reagan once spoke of doing. “That’s the kind of grand reform that is very, very difficult to do. But it can be done.”
Palin made it clear that she’s against any deal that raises the debt ceiling and would hold House Speaker John Boehner’s feet to the fire if he agreed to one. “No, we have to cut spending. It is imperative, and I will be very, very disappointed if Boehner and the leaders of the Republican Party cave on any kind of debt deal in the next couple of months.”
Palin has also become conversant on the subject of quantitative easing, the inflationary effects of which she illustrated with a personal anecdote. “I was ticked off at Todd yesterday,” she said. “He walks into a gas station as we’re driving over from Minnesota. He buys a Slim Jim—we’re always eating that jerky stuff—for $2.69. I said, ‘Todd, those used to be 99 cents, just recently!’ And he says, ‘Man, the dollar’s worth nothing anymore.’ A jug of milk and a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs—every time I walk into that grocery store, a couple of pennies more…”
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