The will she or won’t she? question continues at Politico, where Andy Barr reports on SarahPAC’s FEC financial disclosure yesterday. The PAC finished 2010 in good shape, with $1.3 million in the bank and no debt after spending more than $2.6 million during the midterm campaign. But absent from the report are any indications of the kind of expansion usually seen with candidates preparing for an electoral campaign:
Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin headed into this year with more than $1.3 million in her political action committee, according a financial disclosure filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.
The filing shows no indication that Palin has started to ramp up for a potential presidential run, as no new staff shows up on SarahPAC’s expenses — which remain very low compared to a campaign of even moderate size. Her PAC spent nearly $230,000 for the period between the end of the campaign and end of the calendar year, and more than $2.6 million in 2010.
Palin raised $275,000 during the six-week reporting period, bringing her total to $3.5 million for the year. A look through her contributors shows checks come in from across the country — and though not every donor listed their occupation, a large share identify themselves as retired.
Since forming the PAC, Palin has raised roughly $4.5 million and spend $3.2 million.
There may be a couple of reasons for this, though. Palin has near-saturation levels of name recognition, which puts her far ahead of other potential nominees. She has two best-selling books, as well as her status as a media lightning rod. Can anyone name a political development that at least some national media outlets don’t immediately put in the context of Sarah Palin?
Furthermore, Palin has a strong following in the Tea Party movement; she’s as close to a national leader as it has. That means Palin would require somewhat less organizing, at least to start a national campaign, than others in the Republican Party. Potential candidates like Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and even Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney need to build organizations to get boots on the ground, where Palin can afford to wait a little longer — although not necessarily all that much longer to get the talent locked into her campaign. Other than the talent, Palin can afford to jump in later and try to swamp out the lesser-known candidates without taking the bruising that retail politics provides.
However, the hiring issue relates directly to Barr’s analysis, and eventually everyone needs good talent on the ground. Fred Thompson and his supporters found that out the hard way in late 2007. It takes both a skilled candidate and a good organization to win a nomination, let alone a general election.
The other explanation is that Palin is organizing more for activism and kingmaking than a run herself. That’s always been a possibility, but it’s still a little too early to tell from the FEC disclosures. In April, the next disclosure period, we should be able to tell the difference.