The Palin-Steele Roadshow
You may have seen the announcement earlier today that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is scheduled to do two big fundraisers for the Republican National Committee with Chairman Michael Steele. Whenever Palin is even remotely connected to RNC activities, observers inevitably question whether in doing so she is somehow compromising her cherished maverick credentials and risking damage to her political persona.  Both have been essential to her tremendous success as a political celebrity and to her rise as a leader of the tea party movement.
I’m assuming these folks have not forgotten that Palin has already been the official vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party, which no doubt came with a fair bit of access to RNC institutional elites built into the gig. But more importantly, as I argued in a post back in April, my sense is that Palin sees her ability to bridge both the party’s institutional infrastructure and its populist tendencies on the right as being critical to amassing political power. It’s what led Palin to endorse a Republican institutional favorite like Kelly Ayotte in our U.S. Senate race, and it's why Palin has previously argued that the tea party movement should work to transform the Republican Party from the inside out.
Palin’s ability to work both sides of this institutional-populist divide is key for her ability to harness movement conservatism to any future national political ambitions she might have. If anything, overcoming the skepticism of institutional elites in the party is her biggest challenge going forward. These fundraisers, just like her earlier defense of a besieged Chairman Steele, fit neatly into that strategy.
Note: Back posting on Monday. -Dean

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