Why Sarah Palin Won't Be RNC Chair
A group calling itself the Tea Party Nation is planning to send a letter to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) urging her to run for chairman of the Republican National Committee. But Palin, plainly put, will never become chairman -- both because the national committee would never elect her, and because the job is clearly at odds with her own self-interest.
Palin herself told ABC News she's not interested in a run. "I respect the desire to have someone in charge of the RNC who understands the wishes of the conservative grassroots and understands that power resides with the people and not the vested interests in D.C.," she said in a statement.
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Here are the other six reasons Palin will never serve as RNC chair:
1) She might want to run. While it's not clear she will actually run for president, one thing is obvious: Palin wants the door open enough for her to make a bid if she decides to pursue one. Becoming chairman of a national political committee that has to raise $400 million in two years means forgoing any possible presidential campaign in 2012.
Palin herself acknowledged that conundrum today. "The primary role of the RNC chair seems be that of fundraiser-in-chief, and there are others who would probably be much more comfortable asking people for money than I would be, and they would definitely enjoy it more," she told ABC News.
2) She's an ideologue. Qualification no. 1 for any chairman, especially going into a presidential election year, is to be an objective broker. Palin has a clear-cut ideology, and even though her conservative outlook is the clear majority in the party, it's not the only outlook. The RNC chairman has to defend moderates as much as conservatives. That means equally supporting Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Palin's primary endorsements, especially against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), raise questions as to whether she would do that. In a presidential year, potential White House candidates will lean on their RNC members to pick someone who is not going to have a finger on the scale, and Palin's history would certainly make those contenders nervous.
3) She's an outsider. That's one of Palin's biggest potential plusses as a presidential candidate, but in the world of the RNC and its 168 voters, that's almost the death of her campaign right there. The RNC is a group of state party chairs and national committee members who prize their independence, and they're not easily wooed by stars. They are routinely courted by possible presidential candidates and they rarely bat an eye when it happens.
What's more, they don't believe anyone understands the situations in their states. They want the RNC chairman to hand out money and leave the states to spend it as they see fit. They are suspicious that an outsider would want to run everything from the RNC. Many members on the national committee believed incumbent chairman Michael Steele was too much of an outsider when he ran -- and he'd been chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, and thus a member of the RNC, until late 2004!
4) She's too loud. For evidence that Palin is perhaps the most influential media figure in American politics today, just wait until she tweets again and cable news covers it like a national news event. Palin has the widest reach of any Republican, and arguably of any American outside of President Obama. That's great for Palin. It would be a disaster for the RNC.
If there's anything RNC members have learned after two years of Steele, it's that the national committee only becomes news when the chairman makes an error. Palin is a lightening rod, for the huge number of Republicans who love her and the equal, if not greater, number of Democrats who hate her. RNC members want media attention to focus elsewhere, and Palin's not the person to deflect attention away from herself, or from any organization with which she's associated.
5) She doesn't want to be made obscure. Palin's ability to tweet and reach the world, or go on Fox News to advocate for her causes, would have an instant shelf life as RNC chairman. For one thing, the job of the RNC chairman isn't to keep the party pure, or hold aloft the righteous flame of conservatism. It's to raise money and win elections. It's up to the House and Senate Republican leaders to make policy, not the committee chairman -- a lesson Steele learned the hard way.
In a presidential election cycle, the chairman has another job: To shut up and get out of the way. Shortly after John McCain won the 2008 Republican nomination, the RNC effectively handed control of operations over to his campaign, and the chairman at the time became little more than a figurehead. Palin is not the type, nor does she have the incentive, to shrink away -- especially when she could be the one calling those shots.
6) She's making too much money. Palin's book debuted as the second-best seller in America when it came out (It would have been first had not George W. Bush done such a good job marketing his own book). She's got a reality show on TLC that paid her more than $1 million per episode. And her paid speeches rake in six-figure sums. All told, she has made well into the eight figure range since leaving the Alaska governor's mansion (Her earnings were estimated at $12 million by New York Magazine in April, a figure that's well out of date by now).
So why would she want to go to work for an organization that promised to pay her just over $220,000 a year? The position doesn't lend itself to paid speeches or book tours, as Steele found out earlier this year. If Palin truly couldn't afford to be governor of Alaska, serving as RNC chairman will not lend itself to the comfort to which she has become accustomed.