Why won't Sarah Palin be at the convention?

This is seriously the explanation Trump’s going with?

If only there were contraptions capable of carrying people great distances at great speed, then Sarah wouldn’t need many months’ notice to make it to Ohio from Alaska in time:

“She was asked,” Trump told the Washington Examiner in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s a little bit difficult because of where she is. We love Sarah. Little bit difficult because of, you know, it’s a long ways away.”

Palin, who lives in Alaska, endorsed Trump for the GOP nomination in January. The convention will be hosted in Cleveland, roughly an 11-hour flight away from her home state.

Fun fact: Palin’s introduction to the country as McCain’s VP choice in 2008 was at a rally held in … Ohio. She traveled overnight by private plane from Alaska to get there. Her last major public appearance on Trump’s behalf, the speech where she called #NeverTrumpers “RATs,” was delivered in Denver, just a few hours’ flight from Cleveland. There’s no such thing as a “long ways away.”

It’s unthinkable that Trump would snub her. More traditional nominees might have since she’s a loose cannon and disliked by the Democratic voters whom Trump is courting, but Trump has both of those problems himself and he loves to tell people how much he covets loyalty. Palin was one of the biggest Republican names to back him in the primaries. And she’s truer to Trump’s nationalist populist politics than virtually any other speaker onstage will be. Either she’s skipping the convention for her own reasons and Trump is reaching for an excuse to explain it away or, more likely, Trump is saving her as a “surprise” speaker, likely one of several. There’s no other explanation.

Incidentally, I don’t share the opinion of Ed and Charles Cooke that the convention line-up is underwhelming. It’s underwhelming if you’re a conservative activist, maybe. Cooke:

If you dare, reflect for a dispiriting moment upon the talent that will be left on the Republicans’ bench. There will be no Marco Rubio, no Tim Scott, no Cory Gardner, and no Ben Sasse. There will be no Trey Gowdy, no Kevin McCarthy, and no Mia Love. Neither Charlie Baker nor Larry Hogan — both popular Republican governors in deep-blue states — will be anywhere near the proceedings, nor will Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, Greg Abbott, or Brian Sandoval. Were the organizers determined to say “we’re a small, white rump, ignore us!” they could barely have done a better job…

As it always does, the Democratic party will cast the American Right as a dangerous collection of freaks and grifters; and, once again, the American Right will present the onlookers with evidence that this is true. In Cleveland, nobodies will be elevated well beyond their station; minorities will be represented by carnival barkers and contrarians; and the remarkable gains of the past six years will be hidden from public view. Instead of Tim Scott talking about poverty, we will see Ben Carson delivering his patented semi-comatose free-stylings. Instead of Susana Martinez outlining her vision, Ivanka Trump will regale us with an array of shimmering inanities. And, in what is perhaps the most criminal of all the mistakes being made, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will be forced to sell their worthwhile legislative agendas not in concert with their party’s nominee but in spite of him.

Marco Rubio gave a scintillating “American Dream” speech on Romney’s behalf in 2012. Romney promptly got clobbered and Rubio went nowhere during his own run this year. With very rare exceptions, like Obama’s 2004 speech or Palin’s 2008 address, convention speeches are paint-by-numbers snoozers, farts in the wind to the average persuadable voter who doesn’t pay much attention to politics most of the time. (Obama’s and Palin’s speeches were themselves aided by the fact that each was a bright new star for their party, fueling the excitement around the speech.) If you’re not a conservative ideologue, I don’t know why you’d be any less likely to vote for Trump after a pep talk from, say, Bobby Knight than a “these things I believe” paean to Reaganism by Ben Sasse or Susana Martinez. If you’re Sasse or Martinez, I don’t know why you’d think your national prospects would be damaged by refusing to speak next week given how little Rubio and Palin got for their trouble career-wise. I’d go as far as to say that Ivanka Trump’s speech is as likely to move the needle for Trump as Ted Cruz’s is, if not more, and not just because she’ll be by far the more enthusiastic endorser. A low-information voter watching these things doesn’t respond to ideological appeals, I suspect. He responds by gut, the same way we all do when watching a spectacle that we’re not invested in. Everyone likes Ivanka; Ivanka likes dad; ergo, people who watch her will be more likely to like dad too. Simple as that. No one will miss the conservative heavy hitters. Especially since, as we’ve learned in excruciating ways this year, the party base ain’t all that conservative.

Speaking of Ivanka, I think her speech may be the most important of the convention besides Trump’s and not because of what it’ll do for his polling. If Trump goes down in flames this year, there’ll be a power vacuum at the top of his nationalist movement. There’s no obvious inheritor to lead it: Jeff Sessions will be 70 this fall and doesn’t have Trump’s charisma, and a guy like Chris Christie would have to not only reinvent himself politically but become a lot more likable. Palin would be a good match on policy, at least at this point, but not enough people take her seriously anymore. Given the Le Pen precedent in France, it’s not nuts to think that Ivanka could establish herself as a political player if she impresses next week. I get no sense from her that she’s committed to dad’s agenda, just to dad himself, but since she’s a political cipher it’d be easy for her to reinvent herself as a Marion Marechal Le Pen — if she wanted to. I think Trump’s hardcore fans would dig having her at the head of the movement too, not only because she seems smarter and certainly more charming than the old man but because Trump’s cult of personality logically requires another Trump to take the reins after he leaves the scene. Who else is fit to wear the crown of King Donald except his true heir? We’ll see how she does. Maybe, after the election, she’ll get bored with politics and go back to hobnobbing with power players in Manhattan and donating to Democrats. The apple doesn’t roll far from the tree.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s a list of prominent Republicans who won’t be speaking next week, by the way. Click on it to see the full image.