Day one of Sarah Palin's East Coast national heritage tour is getting some snarky reviews from what she’s dubbed “the lame stream media” for lacking a schedule befitting a presidential campaign.
First, it is Memorial Day, and lest her star power eclipse more solemn contemplations, she kept it loose and informal Monday visiting the National Archives, Mount Vernon and other national treasures. That's not poor planning, that's keeping things in perspective, she said.
Second, this trip is a production of her “SarahPAC” political action committee, which was created to help Palin raise and spend money advancing conservative ideas and other conservative candidates. That's not haphazard organization, that’s abiding by laws that allow her to move around the country via her PAC as long as she is not too blatant about eyeing the presidency for herself.
Palin’s “One Nation” bus is carrying her family and some staffers, along with occasional friends and advisers. No sooner had she stepped 10 feet from the vehicle Monday morning did a reporter solicit the first tease, asking, “Are you going to run?”
With six words -- “We’re still kind of contemplating that” -- Palin artfully fanned the flames of speculation then spun around and away into a crowd more eager for autographs than political policies.
Palin's bus tour "highlighting America's foundation" will hit historical sites from Washington, D.C. to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
The fact that Michele Bachmann was in New Hampshire on Monday, that Mitt Romney will announce his presidential campaign there Thursday, that Rudy Giuliani will test the Granite State waters Friday and that Jon Huntsman is spending the weekend there is just a measure of how intense the race has become in the last few weeks.
The next GOP presidential primary debate is June 13 in New Hampshire. Palin has not given any indication that she plans to participate.
“This is not a campaign bus. This is a bus to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested about all that is good about America and to remind ourselves we don’t need to fundamentally change America, we need to restore what's good about America," Palin told a sidewalk crowd at her first stop.
The bus tour is meant to raise not only Palin's political profile but also money. SarahPAC's web page opens with a new pop up fundraising ad.
Palin is a relentless Obama critic, but with the commander in chief presiding over Memorial Day ceremonies, she dialed back the partisanship when asked if she can unseat the incumbent. "I think any Republican candidate is very electable. I think Americans are ready for true change, change to get our country back on the right track," Palin said.
At one point on the streets of the nation’s capital, Palin was approached by Don Foley, a D.C. resident, who bluntly told Palin, "I'm a black Republican. I'd like to know what are you're going to do to attract more African-Americans to the Republican Party?"
Palin sought common ground on the struggling economy. "Every American is interested in making sure the economy is getting back on the right track jobs are created via the private sector having the freedom to invest and prioritize. Skin color doesn’t matter on that, we all want good jobs," she said.
Foley then stated that Democrats "use racism and fear to keep African-Americans away from the GOP" and pushed Palin to prove otherwise. "I would appreciate it if you started really addressing some issues that deal with the African American community as well because we are Americans too." Plain interjected an "amen" and then Foley continued with a reference to the Democrats’ attack on her as a political polarizer "Start attracting more African Americans, you know I mean the rumor is that you’re divisive, but I mean, include us as well," Foley said.
Palin pretty much overshadowed the rest of the field this Memorial Day, but to be fair, most of the candidates kept a low holiday profile.
Bachmann was in New Hampshire at a picnic. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was campaigning in Iowa. All of the candidates say they will run their own races irrespective of what Palin does.
Of course, that is nonsense. Palin, known in high school as “Sarah Barracuda,” was brought to the national political stage in 2008 for the expressed purpose of being a “game-changer.”
And any Republican who doesn’t have a healthy respect for Palin’s ability to actually be a game-changer in the 2012 GOP nominating race risks being run over.