WASHINGTON — After months of playing coy about running for president, Sarah Palin is sending the strongest signals yet that she’s about to join the race for the 2012 Republican nomination.
Palin, the former governor of Alaska, has reportedly bought a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, fuelling speculation that she’s going to base a national campaign from the “lower 48” instead of the remote reaches of her home state.
A reverential new documentary about her short-lived tenure as Alaska governor is also set to be released in the key primary state of Iowa in June. “Undefeated,” produced by conservative filmmaker Stephen Bannon, reportedly portrays Palin as an inspirational maverick and compares her to former president Ronald Reagan, a beloved conservative icon.
“This film is a call to action for a campaign like 1976: Reagan versus the establishment,” Bannon told the RealClearPolitics website. “Let’s have a good old-fashioned brouhaha.”
And on her website Thursday, Palin announced a bus tour of the East Coast — featuring various public appearances — that will begin Sunday at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in D.C. The event is popular with Vietnam veterans and draws a patriotic crowd.
“Our nation is at a critical turning point,” read a post about the “One Nation” tour apparently penned by Palin.
“As we look to the future, we are propelled by America’s past. It’s imperative that we connect with our founders, our patriots, our challenges and victories to clearly see our way forward.”
Palin’s camp has also come out with guns blazing against a former aide who’s written a scathing tell-all about his former boss, describing her as a vindictive, unethical woman lacking any real interest in the nitty gritty of governing and motivated instead by wealth and fame.
Frank Bailey worked for Palin from her 2006 gubernatorial campaign until the end of her run for vice-president in 2008. His book, “Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin,” is based on thousands of e-mails he kept while working for the governor.
There was a further insult directed Palin’s way earlier this week.
According to a story in New York magazine, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes no longer thinks very highly of Palin despite her frequent appearances on his network as a political analyst.
“He thinks Palin is an idiot,” a Republican insider close to Ailes told the magazine. “He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.”
Palin’s camp, meantime, is fighting back. While there’s been no rebuttal to Ailes’ alleged remarks, a Palin spokesman branded Bailey a disgruntled employee who’s twice been found to have acted unethically. He has “an axe to grind …. the book belongs on the fiction shelves,” the spokesman said.
Palin has been pressed by supporters for months to make a decision about running for president. The Republican establishment is opposed to her candidacy and has been tamping down speculation for months that Palin will actually make a run.
In recent weeks, however, Palin has beefed up her staff, rehiring two former George W. Bush aides. Resuming a busy schedule of public appearances is reportedly aimed at raising her profile and improving her image — one that’s suffered in the past few months, particularly in the aftermath of the assassination attempt of Democratic lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January.
Palin’s website once placed Giffords’ congressional district under crosshairs. But the politician reacted angrily to accusations her messaging was contributing to a dangerously toxic political environment in the United States, prompting further contempt by referring to the criticism as “blood libel” — a term that’s offensive to Jews.
Indeed, Ailes reportedly told Palin to lie low after the Giffords’ shooting, advising her not to inject herself into the tragedy. He was miffed when she failed to follow his advice.
In recent public remarks, Palin has hinted she’s seriously considering a run.
“I have that fire in my belly,” she told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in a recent interview. Palin added she was concerned, however, about the “sacrifices that have to be made on my children’s part” if their mother runs for president.
To Fox News host Sean Hannity, Palin said: “I want to make sure that we have a candidate out there with Tea Party principles.”
And to yet another Fox News host, she pointed out the importance of selecting a candidate who would hold both Democrats and Republicans accountable for the “politics as usual” on Capitol Hill.
“We have got to have faith that the Republican Party is going to surface somebody who can take on both sides of the aisle,” she said.
But where Palin treads, so apparently does scandal. This week there was yet more, when the conservative website The Daily Caller got its hands on online messages from one of Palin’s advisers, Rebecca Mansour.
Mansour mocked Palin’s daughter, Bristol, in the private Twitter messages sent to an acquaintance shortly after Bristol Palin announced last year she was planning to marry Levi Johnston, the father of her little boy.