Peter Singleton, Sarah Palin's man in Iowa. Photo: Wall Street Journal
Sarah Palin will run for the White House in 2012 and conduct an “unorthodox, grassroots campaign the likes of which you’ve never seen”, according to the man who has spent the past eight months organising for her in Iowa.
Speaking to me after the premiere of the film “The Undefeated” in Pella, Iowa, Peter Singleton, a California lawyer who has been assiduously courting Republicans across the state where the first contest of the 2012 election will be heard, said it was “unthinkable” she would remain on the sidelines.
“She’s the right person at this time,” he said. “If you look back at Churchill’s time, in 1938 Churchill was unelectable, in 1940 he was indispensable.
“I can’t see her sitting this one out,” he said. “The stakes are too high. It goes back to 1940. Can you see Churchill sitting it out? It’s unthinkable. Can you see George Washington in 1776 sitting it out? Unthinkable. He wanted to be back on his farm but they said we need you to be president of the republic.”
Mr Singleton, 56, tall and urbane, is a man of considerable mystery. He represents the national Organize4Palin group and has been ubiquitous in Republicans circles building up a network for the former Alaska governor, whose presidential intentions have kept Americans guessing for months.
Although he was standing about 20 yards away from Mrs Palin as he talked to me, Mr Singleton insisted he had never met or spoken to her.
This stance, which he has maintained assiduously since he began working on organising a Palin 2012 campaign in Iowa last November following a scouting trip four months earlier, is something that some senior Iowa Republicans do not take at face value.
It was Mr Singleton who telephoned Beth Hill, director of the Pella Opera House, last Thursday to ask her whether “The Undefeated”, a full-throated defence of Mrs Palin and her career, could be shown there. He then visited to look at the auditorium and put Stephen Bannon, the film’s director on the phone to speak to her.
“Peter came here and he found our town reflected Sarah Palin’s small town, conservative values,” she said. Mr Singleton was also instrumentalin distributing the 332 tickets for the film as well as inviting 1,000 Iowans, including many key Republican leaders in the state, for a barbecue afterwards.
When I asked about his involvement, Mr Singleton said that he was an old friend of Mr Bannon and he had been just one of ” a bunch of people” who had helped set up the screening.
Seymour Vander Schaff, 70, the theatre pipe organist, who performed before the film, said: “This is a conservative community. Swimming pools weren’t even open on Sunday for many, many years. If you run a lawnmower on a Sunday, you’ll probably have a church member come and ask you whether that is the thing to do.
“They break their damn fool neck trying to get the town to pay bills. They don’t want to have debt. It’s important to get bills paid as quickly as possible and save. The ethic is work hard and provide for your family. Those are values that have huge, long-range implications.
“We’ve lost a bit of them over the years and we need to get it back because we’re at a critical tipping point. With the debt, we’ve got a damn monster on our hands.”
Asked by a Fox News reporter before the film about whether she would run in 2012, Mrs Palin responded: “It’s a tough decision, it’s a big decision to decide whether to run for office or not. I’m still contemplating….I am still thinking about the decision and you know a lot goes into such a life-changing, relatively earth-shattering type of decision and still thinking about it.”
Earlier in the day, it had been reported that her eldest daughter Bristol had said Mrs Palin had made a decision about whether or not to run. Mrs Palin laughed about this and said: “I texted Bristol, I said, ‘Honey what did you say this morning on some news programme.
“She said, ‘Oh, mom, you’ve got to watch the interview. You know how they take everything out of context.’ I said, ‘You remember Bristol what we talk about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat’. I don’t know what she said.”
After the film, Mrs Palin and her husband Todd were mobbed by hundreds of supporters amid shots of “your record is golden”, when’s the sequel” and “we need you in the White House, Sarah”.
Asked about the movie as she signed autographs and posed for picture, she said that there was “vindication in it” but “beyond the vindication of my record personally and my team’s record it is a wonderful story about American values”.
It went some way, she added, to presenting the reality of her time as Alaska governor and her life. “There are so many false narratives out there about Todd about our kids, about my record, about my team that has worked so hard together that there is never going to be a way to absolutely set the record straight.”
Mr Singleton also spoke about narratives that were incorrect. “The narratives are: she’s not running; she’s about to endorse another candidate; it’s too late for her to get in; she’s going to run as a celebrity candidate; she’s got no support here; support is attenuated; she’s yesterday’s news,” he said. “All that is comically inaccurate.”
Mrs Palin, he said, would work to connect with Iowans. “Her support is latent. When she runs, whether she wins or loses will be dependent in part on how well she campaigns.
“It’s not like all she has to do is announce and then do a couple of rallies. It doesn’t work and way and it shouldn’t . She will need to work diligently and campaign. Her people are going to have to campaign in every town and every county. That’s what we’re doing.”
For her part, Mrs Palin told RealClearPolitics that she would commit “110 percent” to the Iowa caucus process if she does run for president.
Mr Singleton predicted Mrs Palin “will have hundreds of thousands of volunteers, 10 times more than any other candidate and I think that’s why she’ll win”.
There was still time, he insisted, for her to enter the race, currently being led by Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. “It’s not too late. Would i like her to be here campaigning? Oh sure. But am i worried that the window has closed? No.
“The race is wide open. She a lot of support. I can tell you that because I’ve got field data. I’m part of a team that’s out there all the time.”
Mr Singleton declined to say how many Palin volunteers there were in Iowa but other Republicans said that there were scores, perhaps more than 100, across the state. In time, he said, he expected that “lots of our volunteers now will fold into her campaign in some capacity”.
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