Saturday, October 16, 2010

2012 Presidential Diary: #2 - Sarah Palin

"She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states." - George Will of the Washington Post, writing about Sarah Palin earlier this year.

There is much about the life of former Governor Sarah Palin that makes me jealous. To be able to make or break the careers of both entrenched and budding politicians merely by offering or withholding an endorsement of their campaigns. To have one's political views ghostwritten into bestselling books. To make speeches to adoring fans. To appear, or choose not to appear, on any tv network at any time. And to make more than a million dollars a month without actually working for a living. Now there's a life that I would love.

And if I had that life, would I abandon it to run for President? To spend 18 hours a day on the campaign trail? Just so I can get the toughest job in the world, being President of the United States? No, I don't think I would. And what if I get the nomination, then lose the election? Then I'd be the object of scorn and the butt of jokes, and I'd probably languish into obscurity. No, I wouldn't be interested in that.

Nor do I don't think Sarah Palin will give up the life she has to run for President. Yes, she's been teasing conservative leaders about running, but I don't think she's serious. And not just because she'd be giving up her gravy train life to run for the nation's highest office.

Sarah Palin may never have read a newspaper, but I'm confident that she has some idea what her popularity numbers look like. What they look like, in fact, are the approval numbers of someone who couldn't win a national election if her opponent was a flu virus.

In November of 2009, Palin had an public favorability rating of 43%, unchanged from a year earlier when she'd been the Republican nominee for Vice President. But jumping forward another year, we find that today her approval rating has plummeted to just 22%.

It's a strange contrast. With just a wave of her hand, Sarah Palin destroyed the career of fellow Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski by endorsing her obscure primary opponent Joe Miller. Yet at the same time, Palin has the approval of only 44% of voters who identify as Republicans.

Palin may not enjoy widespread approval among conservatives, but what she does have is the support of the Republican party's most devout activists. This means that she could probably get the nomination in 2012 if she wants it. The nomination doesn't go to the candidate who people think is the most electable, or even the most popular. It goes to the candidate whose supporters show up to vote in the primaries and caucuses.

And in 2010 at least, the Republican primaries are being dominated by Tea Party activists, a group with which Palin is closely aligned. And one thing's for sure: the Tea Party decides which candidate to back based on orthodoxy, not on electability. Case in point: this year's Senate race in Delaware, where popular Republican Congressman Mike Castle appeared to be lock for the GOP nomination and victory in November. That was until an endorsement by Sarah Palin secured the nomination for crazy wing-nut Christine O'Donnell. Palin and the Tea Party would rather lose the seat to the Democrats than see a Republican who might not be 100% conservative win. Perhaps they'll take the same approach to the Presidential race in 2012. We can hope so.

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