Is Sarah Palin teasing us again?
Former Alaska governor not in touch with DC Republicans over Senate bid
Sarah Palin is stirring the pot, suggesting she might seek office again.
"I've considered it because people have requested me to consider it. But, I'm still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that -- there again, there will be some new blood, new energy," she told radio host Sean Hannity on Tuesday.
No, she's not thinking about the 2016 presidential race -- yet. This time, she's eyeing next year's U.S. Senate race in Alaska, where Democrat Mark Begich is seeking a second term.
Several Republicans have already announced their intentions to run, including Joe Miller, who ran a spirited but unsuccessful race for Senate in 2010, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.
Both have been in touch with the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington to discuss their bids. Palin and her advisers have not.
In fact, Republican sources say that members of Palin's team have insinuated that the former governor may be willing to support a candidate already in the race.
Of course, Palin has made bashing the Republican establishment into a blood sport and likely wouldn't seek Washington-based help, anyway.
"Most Republicans would realize running against Sarah Palin in a primary is like running into a buzz saw. She's got a financial advantage and a grassroots advantage that would be very tough to compete with," National Review Online's Jim Geraghty adds.
But there are reasons to doubt she's serious about a run.
For one thing, the Republican right urged her to wage a primary challenge against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010, but she opted against it. She also resigned Alaska's governorship in 2009 before completing a full term.
"Notice, this is not hiring staff, this is not any of the things that a real run would involve. This is just kind of an idle comment to Hannity," Geraghty says of Palin's recent actions.
Palin is also not doing any of the things she did to grab headlines like when she was considering a presidential run two years ago, like publicizing slickly produced campaign-style videos and launching a whirlwind cross-country bus tour.
In October 2011, she finally explained that she had decided against a national run because, "I've concluded that I believe I can be an effective voice in a real decisive role in helping get true public servants elected to office."
And now as she flirts with a Senate run, she has to deal with a new reality: Her popularity in Alaska has tumbled.
Several private polls obtained from Republican sources indicate she's one of the least-liked politicians in the state.
What's more, Palin is raking in the bucks giving high-profile speeches at conservative functions and appearing on Fox News. And her family is starring in various reality shows. As a U.S. senator, those paychecks would disappear.
Yet, Palin loves nothing more than to stay relevant.
"My goal right now is to keep people inspired and empowered," she told CNN in June.
What she may be toying with is the uncomfortable concept that she's not the GOP's only bright young star anymore.
These days, there are plenty of energetic conservatives capturing the party's imagination that may make her fight for newsy buzz, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, among others.
"If she runs, it's going to instantly become the most covered, the most scrutinized, the most hotly debated Senate race of the 2014 cycle," Geraghty said.
American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas said Republicans have a 50-50 chance of taking the majority back in the Senate in next year's midterm elections, and said it's an even more significant possibility if Palin runs for the Alaska seat.
"If she runs, all the odds are off the table," he said. "She would win a general election."
But what about the growing chorus of Republicans who say they would rather see her leave the party than create any new buzz?
"The benefits of having her as a U.S. senator and helping us get back the majority so far outweigh any distractions that might be caused," Cardenas said.
He added that there are a number of young, outspoken Republicans in the Senate who help the GOP spread its message and "she will be one more such member."
And until she decides, political watchers should buckle up, because she'll get plenty of attention.
Palin has until June 2, 2014, to file paperwork to run.
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