Is Sarah Palin running for president in 2012?
It's probably too early to say. But if she is, she appears to have an adopted an alternate strategy from the usual approach of practically moving to Iowa: Mike Huckabee -- who won the caucuses on the Republican side last year -- is heading back there this week. Of course, it makes sense: The Hawkeye State is important both in the primary selection process and is a vital swing state for the general election as well. Nevada Sen. John Ensign has put Iowaon his frequent-destination calendar as well.
But then there's Sarah Palin -- the breakout star (other than Barack Obama) of the 2008 campaign. She's also traveling, but not to locations that are make-or-break for the Republican primary or that can be considered a swing state.
This past weekend she spent a lot of time in New York.
New York? One of the bluest states in the nation? Why would she do that?
Well, she appeared upstate ostensibly to honor local favorite William Seward; the former Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska. But she used the opportunity to launch a speech on foreign policy and defense -- specifically, the Obama administration's cutting $1.2 million from the missile defense program. That would have considerable impact upon a portion of the program being developed in Alaska.
While upstate, Palin also visited Harriet Tubman's home in Auburn and the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.
Palin may recognize her unique position in the Republican Party. She has some time to make a decision on whether she is going to run in 2012. Everyone already assumes that Mike Huckabee and a Mitt Romney are running (like, what else are they doing?). She's got a job right now and can bide her time.
More importantly, she's one of the few candidates who doesn't have to go to Iowa to build name recognition (John Ensign's reason for going). Her recognition is already high, but she does have to do certain things to help fill out her image.
There is the issue of her foreign policy experience: The missile defense speech helps sharpen her "hawk" claws -- something that will hold her in good stead with the foreign policy contingent of the GOP base.
At the same time, the other stops she made in New York help with other voters -- women and independents who think she might have come across as a bit too tough during the presidential campaign: Going to the women's museum and promoting the autism fundraiser are the "softer" events that show off her compassionate side. She concluded the visit by taking in a Yankee game with Rudy Giuliani which showed her a the ultimate "sports mom."
And then, Monday evening she will reinforce her conservative bona fides by giving her first full-length interview in several months to Fox News Channel's "Hannity" -- a sure-fire way to speak directly to Republicans and conservatives. And, according to early transcripts, she's going into red-meat territory by taking on the Obama administration's spending.
There are many roads to a possible presidential nomination. They don't all have to go directly, mostly or only through Iowa. At least not right now.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.