How "Decisive" Will Palin's 2012 Role Actually Be?

How "Decisive" Will Palin's 2012 Role Actually Be?

By Scott Conroy - October 6, 2011

Hours after announcing Wednesday that she would not run for president, Sarah Palin told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that she believes she can instead play a "decisive role" in the 2012 presidential campaign and in down-ballot races.

Palin can cite recent evidence to support that prediction. After all, there was no more coveted endorsement among Tea Party-fueled candidates in the 2010 midterms than the former Alaska governor’s, and Palin did indeed play a pivotal part in many electoral outcomes.

But after a tumultuous year that saw her appeal wane among many in the Republican base, the extent of Palin’s 2012 clout is now uncertain.

The 2008 vice presidential nominee had for months seriously considered throwing her hat into the ring, waffling back and forth repeatedly.

Back in August, Palin and her husband, Todd, even convened a rare in-person meeting in Arizona with five of her closest advisers to lay out the framework for how a wildly unconventional presidential campaign would be run, a SarahPAC aide told RCP.

Two sources close to Palin said that family concerns ended up being a major factor in her ultimate decision not to enter the race.

“They were anguishing about the family,” one of the sources said. “It was a huge issue for them.”

Despite her unimposing standing in recent polls, Palin almost certainly would have been a major factor in the race had she decided to join it.

Immediately upon becoming a candidate, Palin would have sucked up the lion’s share of the political media’s focus. Furthermore, she likely would have reaped the rewards of her underestimated retail politicking skills in places like Iowa, despite her lack of a political infrastructure there.

Even in the likely event that she would have fallen short of winning the nomination, Palin could have run an aggressive, insurgent-style campaign that might have cemented her status as the foremost icon of the Tea Party movement.

Instead, the former point guard who once guided her high school basketball team to the state championship will remain on the sidelines, and that doesn’t sit well with many of her staunchest advocates.

If the comments on the popular pro-Palin online clearinghouse are any indication, Palin will have an uphill climb in retaining the allegiance of her most faithful supporters, most of whom were certain that she would prove her critics wrong and enter the race.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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