New Sarah Palin Hagiography: Springboard for 2012 Presidential Run?

Flickr/David Shankbone

Coming soon to a theater near you (if you happen to live in a key GOP primary state) is The Undefeated, a glowing documentary on Sarah Palin that chronicles her years as governor of Alaska. The filmmaker behind the pro-Palin film is Stephen Bannon, a former banker at Goldman Sachs and a Navy officer, who self-financed the $1 million project. The roll-out for Bannon’s film has a distinctly political flavor—and, by the looks of it, is a potential springboard for a Palin 2012 presidential run: After its late June debut in Iowa, home to the curtain-raising presidential caucuses, The Undefeated will screen in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina—all battleground states in the presidential primary season.

Bannon didn’t come up with the idea on his own. In fact, it was Palin herself, along with aide Rebecca Mansour, who contacted the ex-banker and asked him to make a series of shorter videos praising Palin’s record, as RealClearPolitics reported. If she ever hoped to run for president, Palin needed something to patch up her image after resigning as Alaska governor with 18 months left in her term.

And boy did Bannon deliver. RCP’s Scott Conroy, who screened a rough cut of the film, described it as “a two-hour-long, sweeping epic” that “is poised to serve as a galvanizing prelude to Palin’s prospective presidential campaign.” Here’s more from RCP:

Divided into three acts, the film makes the case that despite the now cliched label, Palin was indeed a maverick who confronted the powerful forces lined up against her to achieve wide-ranging success in a short period of time. The second part of the film’s message is just as clear, if more subjective: that Sarah Palin is the only conservative leader who can both build on the legacy of the Reagan Revolution and bring the ideals of the tea party movement to the Oval Office.

Rife with religious metaphor and unmistakable allusions to Palin as a Joan of Arc-like figure, “The Undefeated” echoes Palin’s “Going Rogue” in its tidy division of the world between the heroes who are on her side and the villains who seek to thwart her at every turn.

To convey Bannon’s view of the pathology behind Palin-hatred, the film begins with a fast-paced sequence of clips showing some of the prominent celebrities who have used sexist, derogatory and generally vicious language to describe her.

Rosie O’Donnell, Matt Damon, Bill Maher, David Letterman, and Howard Stern all have brief cameos before comedian Louis C.K. goes off on a particularly ugly anti-Palin riff.

You could think of Bannon’s piece of political hagiography as a trial balloon for Palin. If the film catches fire in key primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, that could be the nudge Palin needs to enter the 2012 presidential race. She is, after all, a favorite of social conservatives, and while the current crop of GOP hopefuls includes red-meat right wingers like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, none have Palin’s pull.

Yet Palin’s standing among independents and moderate Republicans is hardly inspiring, which is likely one reason she hasn’t made up her mind about 2012. And should Bannon’s Palin paean tank, then that might be a sign the country isn’t ready for a Palin presidential bid, and that she should sit this one out.

Either way, the reaction to, and media coverage of, The Undefeated will be interesting to watch. Palin’s name has slipped out of the news more than usual lately, but you can bet that will change as the buzz around this film starts to build.


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