For the past four years, she has swayed, danced and dodged around the Conservative Political Action Conference, but, this year, Sarah Palin says she has committed to deliver the keynote address Feb. 11, the last day of the conference. ABC’s The Note recounts the rocky history between the former vice presidential candidate and CPAC’s sponsor, the American Conservative Union:
She declined to keynote the event in 2011, citing a scheduling conflict. But her refusal to participate fueled speculation that she wasn’t going because of GOProud, a gay Republican group, that planned to attend. She denied that was the case. Her political action committee, SarahPAC, did sponsor a reception at the convention.
In 2010, Palin cited ACU’s business dealings, particularly those of its then-chairman David Keene, as the reason for dodging CPAC.
In 2009, she initially accepted an invitation to kick off the convention, but then dropped out, saying that she had to attend to the “duties of governing.” She sent a taped message instead.
And in 2008, Palin cancelled her speech just two weeks before the event. By then, she had not been named Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, but in 2007, the man who would eventually become her running mate was booed by the crowd.
Why now? It’s fun to speculate. Could be that she’s keen to recover her standing in the CPAC straw poll, in which she’s fallen over the years. Could be that she doesn’t have quite so many opportunities to nab headlines as she once did. Could be that she thinks CPAC could be an ultra-dramatic setting to drop an endorsement. Or it could be that she still believes strongly in the message of limited government that she’s articulated from her first day on the national scene — and sees this as a timely opportunity to remind voters of that message.
It’s certain, though, that she’s still a lightning rod for emotion and opinion. As just one recent example, her remark to the effect that Michele Bachmann should drop out of the presidential race drew exceptional cheers and jeers. Today, Twitter and the blogosphere are alight with folks who say they’re excited to hear Palin speak at CPAC and those who say they saw this coming and, frankly, consider Palin a little passé.
Before I went to Ames, Iowa, this summer, I thought I was indifferent to the Sarah Palin appeal. But on a hot day in August, I wandered around the Iowa State Fair for an hour in a vain attempt to catch a glimpse of her. That taught me she matters to me — if for no other reason than that she matters to y’all. I’m still not always sure why — but I’m always curious. CPAC will be my first time to hear her live — and I confess: I’m excited.