The Protecters of the Palin Brand
washingtonpost.com's Politics Blog
The Fix by Chris Cillizza
There is no brand in Republican politics as powerful -- or as tenuous -- as that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
She is simultaneously the hottest commodity on the Republican fundraising circuit and a figure of ridicule among Democrats (and even many Independents) who believe that her status as a national figure is entirely undeserved.
Even Palin and her political team seem to be struggling somewhat with how much or little to expose her at the national level.
Witness the odd back and forth over the past 24 hours regarding her involvement in the annual Republican House-Senate fundraising dinner in June.
Yesterday afternoon the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a joint press release touting Palin as the keynote speaker at their fundraising dinner on June 8 in Washington. Then the governor's spokesman told the Anchorage Daily News that the NRSC and NRCC were mistaken in announcing Palin as the keynoter, insisting that she had agreed to no such thing.
The misunderstanding appeared to be the result of a miscommunication (or lack of communication) between Palin's office in Alaska and her still-forming political team running Sarah PAC. (The dinner, as we understand it, is on.)
"A lot of people may be able to overlook the campaign, because the McCain team was calling the shots," said one D.C.-based source familiar with Palin's political operation. "But even since the election she has not been served well by her inner circle. Going forward, there needs to be a seamless operation if they want to position her as a serious contender for 2012."
So, who are the figures charged with guiding Palin's political image in Washington? Here's the lineup based on our conversations with informed strategists.
• John Coale: Coale, a well-known Washington lawyer and the husband of Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren, drew national media attention when he endorsed Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in protest of the way in which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who he backed in the primary, was treated. Coale, in an interview with the Fix, described himself simply as a "friend" of the Alaska governor but acknowledged that he suggested she start a leadership PAC and helped her navigate through some of the questions surrounding her family that lingered after the campaign. Others familiar with Palin's political team insist that Coale has far more power than he is letting on -- essentially helping to run Sarah PAC. Coale demurred on that front, noting only that he talks to Palin regularly and that she is a "fascinating person" who is "definitely not what the right thinks or the left thinks."
• Meg Stapleton: Stapleton serves as the Alaska spokeswoman for Sarah PAC after having played a similar role for the governor during the vice presidential campaign and in the governor's office. Stapleton has been the lead defender of Palin from barbs thrown at her -- often from those allied with McCain -- in the aftermath of the 2008 campaign and, generally, wins positive reviews from Washington insiders not directly allied with the governor.
• Pam Pryor: Pryor is the Washington spokesperson for Sarah PAC after serving as a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee during last year's general election campaign. Pryor has previously served in a variety of political jobs in Washington including as press secretary and chief of staff to former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts.
• Becki Donatelli: Donatelli, as we reported a few weeks ago, is officially running Sarah PAC. She is the chairman of Campaign Solutions, a fundraising and Internet strategy firm based in Virginia.