As Sarah Palin embarks on her much anticipated book tour she needs to think about more than just settling scores and image rehabilitation, she needs to get serious. That means, during her promotion tour kicking off this week, she needs to discuss more than moose chili and teen pregnancy. With a leadership vacuum in the GOP more evident than ever, rising to the top and staying in the spotlight is shrewd, but only if she’s ready to talk substance.
From a political perspective, Palin is deeply threatening to the left. Classist, petit syrah swilling liberals loathe the thought of being governed by a backwater governor with five kids and a beehive. Leftist women hate her because she’s attractive and should be busy burning her bra for abortion rights (she’s also successful in her personal life, which often times aggravates liberal females and irritates certain gray—I mean, strawberry haired print columnists). Political strategists fear her because she could effectively help move the traditionally Democratic blue collar vote to the right. Think about it: who could be more unsuccessful in their outreach to this demographic: Joe Biden or Sarah Palin? Palin also has the ability to make the left appear so vile, so rude, and so disgusting by just being herself. She gets them to use the most egregious of insults and acts as a mirror to their soul whenever she appears by getting them to act so appallingly.
While these realities are potent, they aren’t the sole ingredients for a successful candidacy. They are personal, not presidential. It’s dangerous to build a cult of personality without real policy chops, no matter which side of the aisle. Just look at Barack Obama. He won because of his persona. When it comes to actually governing and making the tough policy decisions required for the job, he appears weak, winded and confused. His words, his fancy backdrops and his cultish iconography can't save him now.
The best preparation for a political candidacy is a primary. This book tour should be Palin's primary.
Politics is a game of addition. You add supporters by not just talking to head nodders, but also by winning converts. With the economy still in a chokehold and Obama’s approval rating in a freefall, Palin has an opportunity to offer creative and solid solutions our many problems. This would help her capture the imagination of a larger portion of the electorate -- not just conservatives. For most independents and moderates, controlling spending is priority number one. She could own this issue by addressing it head on during her book tour and offer a sharp contrast to the fiscal gluttony of the current administration.
In her book, Palin seeks to set the record straight when it comes to former McCain staffers who muzzled her. Many times during the campaign I argued that her handlers were operating with an outdated playbook and bunker mentality that did nothing to capitalize on her strengths, so it’s important for her to bring clarity to these misconceptions.
But once this media blitz ends, so must the soap opera. Many of these operatives view campaigns as a money making industry. They’re looking to hook their claws into other candidates in the 2012 election that's why they continue to cut her down by using a very willing liberal media looking for any excuse to assist when it comes to Republican Party infighting. She shouldn’t take the bait. She needs to ignore them and focus on moving forward. Palin is far more important and effective than they will ever be. She must act like it.
The media will be following her every move on her campaign – uh, I mean book tour across America. She should use these venues to differentiate and define herself from the rest of the bunch but also offer creative and solid solutions to the issues that ail us. With conviction, strong sense of self and passion like the GOP hasn’t seen in decades, she needs to outline what she’d do about Afghanistan, her plan to lower health care and energy costs and keep us safe at home by getting heady. Enough about death panels, what would she do?
I can understand Palin’s urge to travel to the pockets of America where people like her. But rising to the top requires facing your enemies head on. That means Sunday morning talk shows and an appearance on "60 Minutes." If the Katie Couric interviews were just a one time fluke then prove it. It’s better to deal with the tough questions now than months before a presidential primary.
One of two things is going to happen if she pursues this strategy:
She’s going to come through like Maggie Thatcher—always focused on the future, unflappable and astute. Or she’s going to come through like Geraldine Ferraro, consistently talking about the past and what could have been. If she’s not ready for a pre-primary, then she needs to rethink her priorities and take more time to prepare for that next step.
It’s gut check time. Though she says that the White House isn’t on her radar, if Sarah Palin is going to emerge as any kind of transformational leader she needs to articulate why she wants to run for higher office without actually saying it, and display why she belongs there. The journey begins today.
Andrea Tantaros is a FoxNews.com contributor. She is the former Press Secretary to House Republican Leadership and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.