Tonight's the Night
You may recall that back in March a series of staff missteps and assorted miscommunications led to Gov. Sarah Palin being invited (sort of) and then disinvited to deliver the keynote address at tonight’s joint House-Senate Republican fundraising dinner. While we may never know precisely who dropped the ball on the initial invitation, the end result was Palin’s being replaced by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I have written before on Gingrich’s intensive work to recast himself as a party elder and policy visionary, and this kind of high-profile speaking gig would certainly further that effort.
As an interesting coda to this little story, we have now learned that at the last minute Sarah Palin was reinvited to speak along with Gingrich, then was off the program again, and finally agreed to appear at the dinner tonight, have her presence acknowledged, but not actually speak. Supposedly there was some concern among organizers that a Palin speech might upstage Gingrich on a double bill. Given Newt’s…shall we say…general level of confidence, this doesn’t sound like something about which he would typically be concerned, but apparently others were.
As I wrote in a post at the time of the original invitation mishap, I don’t think either Gingrich or Palin will be at the top of the Republican ticket in 2012. But as others have noted, this whole episode speaks to the genuine friction exhibited between movement conservatives and institutional elites within the Republican Party, as it casts about for a direction forward. While Gingrich has had some success in bridging the two groups, Palin has found it to be much rougher going, either by her own doing or by resistance from others in the party. So, tonight won’t likely be the last time we see a little intra-party awkwardness on display.

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