Palin’s supporters, “not fans”

I recently met Peter Singleton and Michelle McCormick at a Des Moines coffee shop to talk about the “grassroots network” they’ve been building, in hopes former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin runs for president. 

Singleton, who is from California’s Silicon Valley, moved here about eight months ago.  McCormick’s full-time move to Iowa is more recent.  Both were in Pella in late June for the premiere of the documentary about Palin (McCormick had been making trips to Iowa).  Both met Palin in person at the picnic held after the film’s showing.  McCormick then returned to Texas, got a leave of absence from her job and she’s been essentially living in Iowa since July.

During our discussion, McCormick brought up one of her pet peeves. “I just kind of notice a theme some people like to use and they like to refer to Governor Palin as a ‘celebrity’ and, by extension, people who like her are ‘fans,’” McCormick said. “She’s not a celebrity and we’re not fans. She’s a political leader and we’re supporters of her.”

Singleton said the term “fan” is used by those who want to classify Palin supporters as “irrelevant” to the political landscape for 2012.  “We support Sarah Palin because we think she is the best leader on our side for our times,” Singleton said. “We’re very confident of that. We think it’s almost a certainty that she will run, but we don’t know for a fact that she’s going to run.”

A few seconds later, Singleton added that “we have no direct knowledge” about Palin’s intentions.  “My personal opinion is, and I don’t speak for Governor Palin…she has given no indication she is going to announce on September 3,” Singleton said, a reference to Palin’s appearance in Indianola, Iowa, tomorrow.

Singleton was reluctant to share too many details of the organizing he’s been doing for the past eight months.  “We don’t talk numbers. We are absolutely delighted to be underestimated,” Singleton said. “…We didn’t even start talking about our county strategy until we’d been in about 65 counties. We didn’t talk about the fact that we had a team until we had a really good team in place. We just would much rather operate under the radar and let the other guys underestimate us.”

I’ve seen Singleton at a few events over the past few months and he introduced himself to me at an event in Tiffin on August 5.  During out coffeehouse conversation in Des Moines, I asked Singleton and McCormick about the newest entrant in the race — Rick Perry — and whether Palin and Perry would be competing for the same group of supporters.

“We like Governor Perry. He has done a very good job in rhetorically arguing in favor of conservative principles in the last two-and-a-half years,” Singleton said. “His record as governor in Texas is very equivocal. It’s not a conservative record. It’s not a record of conservative governance. There are serious concerns that have been raised about crony-capitalism…No one is going to criticize him personally because he’s on our side. And actually Governor Palin and Governor Perry seem to be good friends, but his record will be examined and carefully and I think his record is not going to hold up very well.”

When I asked whether Palin’s two-and-a-half years as governor would compare favorably or unfavorably to the 11 years Perry has been governor of Texas, McCormick (a Texan) replied with this assessment: “Quality over quantity.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.