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Where’s Sarah? Palin missing from presidential campaign events

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. The former vice presidential candidate was at this year’s CPAC, but has generally kept her profile low.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. The former vice presidential candidate was at this year’s CPAC, but has generally kept her profile low. MCT

Sarah Palin has disappeared from the 2016 presidential campaign.

She continues to tease about running, just as she has almost since the day she was defeated as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

But since she spoke at two early presidential showcases this winter, including one where her rambling monologue was blasted by conservative activists and analysts, she’s essentially been missing in action.

Since late February, she’s stayed away from the eight other forums, events held almost weekly. And she’s not on the roster for the next meeting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s candidate summit Tuesday in Orlando.

Organizers of these events usually want her, but Palin routinely turns them down and sometimes doesn’t even respond. In some cases, sponsors have stopped asking her.

In political battleground South Carolina, for example, she was not asked to either the party’s Silver Elephant Dinner May 1 or the state Republican convention the next day.

“I’m aware of no one in the Republican Party’s leadership who communicates with Gov. Palin or her team,” said South Carolina Republican Chairman Matt Moore.

While she’s a no-show at campaign events attended by other candidates and would-be candidates, she does want people to consider her on the list.

“Don’t be surprised if you see a few more names anyway on the constitutional conservative side of things jump in also and offer themselves up in the name of service,” Palin told the Extra entertainment news channel last month at a fundraising event for veterans.

Asked if she were planning to run, Palin said, “Well, we’ll see what happens . . . in the next year or so, we’ll see.”

Palin hasn’t run for anything since resigning as governor halfway through her term in 2009. She suggested she might run for president in 2012, for the Senate in 2014, and now president again.

Yet she’s got no apparent organization or fundraising apparatus.

“My guess is, looking at her recent history, that her suggested ambitions to run for office are all just publicity stunts to keep her name alive nationally,” said Marc Hellenthal, a Republican strategist and pollster in Alaska.

Nor does anyone seem to eagerly be urging her to jump into a field that could have at least 15 prominent candidates. “Gov. Palin has really fallen off of the map and is a non-factor in South Carolina and most places,” Moore said.

Even in Alaska, her approval ratings are low and her state political career is over.

“When she quit in the middle of her gubernatorial term she hurt herself tremendously,” Hellenthal said.

Palin does retain a following, even a star quality among some conservative Republicans. That’s why many who invited her to forums only to be rebuffed won’t talk about her on the record. They do point out that being able to entertain a crowd is quite different from having appeal as a potential officeholder.

At the February Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington, Palin got a warm reception with a speech urging better care for veterans. “Just because one guy at the top resigned, well, the problems didn’t resign,” she said. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski resigned last year after controversies at VA hospitals.

Palin’s most visible presence lately has been on her Sportsman Channel television show, “Amazing America with Sarah Palin.”

She did not respond to McClatchy requests for an interview. Neither did Tim Crawford, the treasurer of her political action committee, SarahPAC.

SarahPAC ended last year with $825,555 in cash, not a large sum by national political standards. According to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis, the political action committee has given just 6.6 percent of its money to political candidates over the last two years with the bulk going to consultants, speechwriters and travel.

Palin also has her own web TV show, the “Sarah Palin Channel,” which comments on current affairs. Palin has mostly been in the news lately for the cancellation of the wedding between her daughter, Bristol, and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer.

She’s not going to be politically invisible this year, of course. She keeps tweeting her thoughts, and Sal Russo, chief strategist for Tea Party Express, said, “She has a huge following.”

And she can still get friendly crowds on their feet.

“She’s a national conservative thought leader,” said David Bossie, president of Citizens United, who sponsored events this year in Iowa and South Carolina. “She’ll be invited again.”

Sarah Palin’s schedule

Jan. 24. Iowa Freedom Summit. Attended.

Feb. 26-28. CPAC. Attended.

March 7. Iowa Ag Summit. Did not attend.

April 17-18. New Hampshire “First in the Nation” Leadership Summit. Did not attend.

April 25. Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Summit. Did not attend.

May 1. South Carolina Silver Elephant Dinner. Did not attend.

May 2. South Carolina Republican Convention. Did not attend.

May 9. South Carolina Freedom Summit. Did not attend.

May 16. Iowa Lincoln Day Dinner. Did not attend.

May 21-23. Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Did not attend.

June 2. Gov. Rick Scott's Florida Economic Growth Summit. Not expected to attend.

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