November 16, 2009
Sarah Palin’s Walmart Strategy
By J. Robert Smith
What’s notable about Sarah Palin’s book tour, which starts midweek, is where she’s not going. She’s not going to L.A. or New York, Boston or San Francisco. She’s going smack dab to the middle of the country. Fly-over country, liberals call it. And it’s a shrewd move, not only in selling books, but positioning herself for a presidential run in 2012, if she chooses.
It’s a strategy right out of the late Sam Walton’s playbook: go where there’s demand and the competition ain’t. Walton, who could have run and won political campaigns, built Walmart into the behemoth it is today by opening his discount stores in small towns in the heartland, towns that then eight-hundred pound gorilla K-Mart ignored.
Walton conquered the discount retail category from the heartland out. He didn’t so much clobber K-Mart as steal a march on it. Palin may just prove that a heartland strategy does more than sell blenders and books. It’s the foundation for winning a national election.
Make no mistake, right now, heartlanders (and heartlanders in spirit) are feeling awfully ignored by Washington politicians. The President and Congress are intent on ramming through a health care reform measure that an ever-increasing majority of Americans oppose. They’re spending as if using someone else’s credit card (in fact, the people’s); they play Americans for dupes by calling an old-fashioned pork barrel bill an economic stimulus; and, for toppers, President Obama is playing Hamlet about Afghanistan, thus putting brave soldiers there at greater risk every day.
What Palin will bring to places like Noblesville, Indiana, Washington, Pennsylvania and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is her brand of popular conservatism: upbeat, optimistic and certain. It really is an offshoot of the Reagan brand. And the Reagan brand has its roots deep in the American character.