The Undefeated, the Sarah Palin documentary, isn't what you'd call a summer blockbuster. In fact, the sympathetic biography flopped in theaters, grossing only $175,000 at the box office. In Iowa, where the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee seems to be laying the groundwork for a presidential bid, just a few have seen it. Iowa Palin organizer Peter Singleton puts the number of screenings at "dozens," but "less than 100." And, adds Singleton, only a "handful of people" have attended each showing.
For anybody else, that would spell disaster. If Tim Pawlenty ended his presidential hopes after getting just 2,293 votes in last weekend's Ames Straw Poll, can Palin hang around if even less Iowans have shown up to see her movie? You betcha, says her gang.
"A big theater showing was never the intention," says director Steve Bannon. "My plan was always to get this shown in every nook and cranny in the country." To that end, he's lined up a pay-per-view and stores like Walmart are releasing 250,000 DVDs of The Undefeated. The goal: Give people a chance to see the real Palin and, should she decide to run, use it as the campaign introduction. [See photos of Sarah Palin and her family.]
"We're confident she'll run, and we've worked to build that really strong grassroots base that you have to build for a candidate to be successful just in case she does," says Singleton, the Iowa "Organize4Palin" representative.
Bannon took on the project after a few of Palin's aides approached him in 2008 about making a series of videos for YouTube promoting Palin. Bannon proposed the film instead, insisted Palin's crew stay out of it and bankrolled the project himself. [See a collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]
The film unpacks Palin's record as Alaska's guv where she tackled ethical issues in her administration, took on Exxon and negotiated the state's largest gas pipeline project.
"She really has a stellar record of achievement, but the established media didn't ever cover that," says Singleton. And, for the record, the McCain-Palin campaign didn't tell it very well.
Bannon says it's changed many mainstream reporters' perceptions of Palin. CBS reporter Jan Crawford, for example, says the film debunked the "tired narrative" during the 2008 campaign that Palin couldn't and didn't think for herself. [Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?]
Says a long-time GOP campaign operative, "If she runs for president, the movie will be useful as the introduction she never got. It's a very effective under-the-radar tool/tactic in gearing up for the Iowa Caucuses if she decides to play."