Republicans in Iowa, as in many places these days, believe they are on the cusp of resurgence. The party is hoping to take back the governor’s office, which 12 years ago Democrats won for the first time in a generation.
It is the season when candidates — and their events — are everywhere, but Ms. Palin spent little of her time with them. She did not appear at a rally, impromptu campaign stop or closed-door one-on-one meetings with party activists. The few Republicans who did get a moment of private time with her had to wait in a photo line at a small reception.
When politicians accept speech invitations at party occasions, particularly outings like the annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, they often do a host of behind-the-scenes events. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement. But Ms. Palin declined to do any additional appearances. Instead, she went for a run.
The reception Ms. Palin received on Friday evening from a crowd of 1,500 people was enthusiastic and polite. She was greeted and sent on her way with standing ovations. But she did not carry the crowd with her through the entire 33-minute speech. When she talked about the beauty of the Tea Party movement, the party activists in the room barely responded.
There are few more sophisticated or demanding political audiences than in Iowa or New Hampshire, where the road to the White House traditionally begins. It is often not the speeches that are most remembered, but rather the face-to-face time where a voter can shake a visiting candidate’s hand, ask a question and get a gut-level feeling about whether he — or she — would make a good president.
This is why many Republicans are not at all convinced that Ms. Palin is running. Whether she should is a subject many Iowans politely declined to discuss, but there was widespread agreement that should she decide to, she would have to do it the Iowa way.
The problem is that Sarah Palin wants to do things her way, and is insisting that the rest of the Republican Party plays catch up to where she's going. This "too cool for school" attitude and rock star "famous for being famous" stuff may play to the FOX News crowd, but Iowans aren't stupid. They expect, if not demand, a certain amount of respect for their role in picking Presidential nominees. Ask Barack Obama, for instance, what paying attention to Iowa can do for your run to the White House.
Sarah Palin, for all her talk that she's all for "Real America" and that liberals treat Iowa like "flyover country" that doesn't matter, well, blowing off the state's GOP apparatus to go jogging will be quite memorable in a bad way.
She's beginning to believe her own FOX News press. That's a mistake.