Bob Carr blogged (I really don’t say that enough …) that he saw Sarah Palin doing her PR stuff and has returned to the idea that she will run in the Republican primary, will win the Republican primary, and will be the best thing for the Democrats in the general election. All in 2012.
I only believed one of those things: That she would be the best for the Democrats. But I don’t think that will actually happen.
That is to say I don’t think she will run for president. Not in 2012, not 2014, or any time after that. I have been deliberating on this for the past two years, whether the VP candidate from 2008 (who is traditionally seen as a logical favourite and ultimately successor for the out-of-power party – though it doesn’t always follow through …) would dive back into the waters of presidential politics in 2012.
At times I thought she was. At other times I thought she definitely wasn’t. And at times I have had no flipping idea what she’s doing (I doubt she knows half the time). But of late, it seems to me that she’s not planning on a run. It doesn’t make sense, in terms of what she is doing in the public eye and what she is doing electorally.
Oh sure, don’t get me wrong. She is putting up the framework for a run. She’s building a primary house, if you will. She’s laying the slab and she’s got a back-order on the timber (from ANWR, no doubt). She is just holding back on calling in the builders, because that’s when it starts to get serious and you have to start paying.
Let me explain my house metaphor here.
She’s visiting the early primary states, especially Iowa. As we all saw in 2008, winning Iowa is a huge thing. And any chart that courses a victory for Palin must start with Iowa. Otherwise, her shots get a lot longer. I will write a post about this later. But anyway, she’s paying visits to Iowa on book deals and speaking deals. She’s mingling with the people who would ultimately have to vote with her and no doubt glad-handing the local GOP establishment.
She’s backed a number of politicians in key states that will give her a bump in any primary race. Her ace-up-the-sleeve is Nikki Haley – governor-elect of South Carolina. Palin backed her into the gate and cheered her home when Mark Sanford (outgoing governor) was caught in an extra-marital affair and said he wouldn’t run for reelection. Any course that Palin might have to winning the primary, while some of them might include Iowa, every single one includes South Carolina. If she loses there, she loses for good. If she runs. But she won’t, so it won’t matter.
But having the governor of your most important state owing you a big favour is no small thing. An endorsement there, the GOP establishment will back her in the state, and she would plan on romping it home if she were running.
Additionally, she has been traveling all those important states, rallying the Tea Party and rallying average Republicans and seems to be one of the few people who can bridge the divide between them. Having that in some key states would undoubtedly be of benefit.
So, like I said, she’s put the slab down and ordered the wood to build the house. But she’s just not building it yet. No one is, actually, because it’s too expensive (everyone realised) to start a campaign so far out from the final election (unless you’re Obama, who everyone expects to raise the magic (and first time ever) $1 billion in campaign funds).
But here’s what I see …
I see a woman who gets millions a year on the public speaking circuit (why, I don’t know …).
I see a woman who is starring in an awful reality TV show, but getting big bucks to do it.
I see a woman who is getting money thrown at her by Fox as a contributor.
I see a woman who has published two best-selling (albeit woeful) books and got bags of cash from it.
To say that living in the White House would be a drastic change would be an understatement. And there’s no guarantee that she will get the big bucks after serving (see: George W. Bush). So it would be a big shift in lifestyle for her and her family. One that sees them having to turn down millions of dollars a year for doing very, very little.
And you have to consider their past. Palin doesn’t come from money. She wasn’t born and raised privileged. She didn’t have to scrap her way out of a log cabin, mind you. But she didn’t have it cushy like a lot of eventual politicians have. And now she has to look at her long-term longevity, not in politics but in her life generally. Eventually her star will fade. Whether it’s because of a shift in the GOP philosophy (and aren’t we all praying for that?), the death of the Tea Party, or the next flash in the pan comes along, she will fall out of favour eventually.
She will be looking at her life now. One pregnant teenage daughter. One grandson. Her son Trig who has Down Syndrome. I don’t know what the income is off a commercial fisherman (Todd, husband), but I imagine it’s not the same required to live the high life. When people say they have to ‘consider their family’ before running, if anyone has anything to consider, it’s Palin. None of this is a slight on her (and congrats for getting as far as she did with all this), nor is it a guarantee that this will deter her. But all this will be a contributing factor.
And all she has to do to keep the good life is do what she’s doing now, rather than getting back into the politics of it all. Someone like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or the raft of no-namers that are floating in the pool at the moment actually need to get into the primary race to boost their name recognition for a few months, maybe a year, to make some extra money. Palin doesn’t have to; she can reap the rewards of her flash right now for the next few years without running every chance she gets.
Let’s move away from the family/personal matters and get into the fun stuff: the electoral reasons.It all boils down to this …
Right now, and you wouldn’t realise this (because she has crafted a great PR image through Fox), she is political toxic waste. The 2010 midterms are evidence of this. Despite the massive Republican gains, and despite the idea that she actually was one reason they swept the Democrats out of power, the truth is that Palin had very little to do with this electorally. She helped raise buckets of cash, and she helped put the spotlight onto issues that the GOP had strengths in. But in terms of her rewards for spent political capital? There is very little.
Nikki Haley is her strongest win. And if the governor of South Carolina is your biggest strength, then you don’t have much to brag about.
Before we drop names though, I have to explain a bit of a political equation. The Tea Party cost the GOP bigger gains (as in controlling the Senate (see; Delaware, Nevada, Colorado)) –> Palin has tied herself to the Tea Party –> Palin has endorsed Tea Party-endorsed candidates –> Palin backed a bunch of losers, costing the GOP the Senate
Don’t think the GOP establishment didn’t realise this. And they will do everything they can to prevent her from even getting into the race. There’s a post all about that which I might write later on. But suffice to say, Palin backed the GOPs to defeat in the Senate. Probably in a bit of a gamble to get the backing from them later down the line should she run (she won’t), but more likely to get credibility with the Tea Party for “helping” them out.
Palin’s political capital was largely spent on these people. She endorsed a raft of dropkicks. Backing a woman who said that Sharia law was the law of the land in Deerborn, Michigan (Sharron Angle, Nevada), a man who said that Obama is the greatest threat to the US (Tom Tancredo, Colorado), a man who had campaign security arrest a journalist for no apparent reason (Joe Miller, Miller), a woman who said worrying about global warming was just like worrying about the weather (Carly Fiorina, California), and (best of all) a woman who had to go on national TV to inform everyone that she wasn’t a witch (Christine O’Donnell, Deleware).
See this link for an interactive map of endorsements: Endorsement Tracker
Sure, she might have backed 19 winners for House races, but they get you next to nothing (unless they burst onto the scene and make a big profile quickly) in primaries and generals.To her credit she did back 6 Senate winners. But one was John McCain, who she was all but obliged to back. Another was John Boozman, who could have won in Arkansas with two heads. She actually made 4 gambles that paid off: Rand Paul (Kentucky, and he is the darling of the Tea Party, so backing him was just to get more clout with the Tea Baggers); Kelly Ayotte (New Hampsire, the second state in the primary contest after Iowa …); Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania, a huge battleground state in a general election), and; Marco Rubio (Florida, same as Pennsylvania, but even more valuable a swing state). So her endorsements were all handed out with extreme care. And there are some returns on this expense of capital.
But people are going to remember the losers that she backed (and what losers they were …) more than the winners. Certainly that will play well in the media, with the people who are out to attack her, and play bad with the independents.
Which brings me to the next important point: Palin polls awfully bad with the independents in polls. I mean really bad. 65% of independents saying they didn’t want to see her as commander-in-chief. The 87% was no surprise. But 43% of Republicans also don’t want her as well. Those are horrible polling numbers.This brings me to point that her endorsements have hurt her. She thought it would be smart to invest in the Tea Party and ride that to the top of the GOP. Actually, it’s done the opposite. The more popular she got with the Tea Party, the more stagnant her wider Republican numbers became.
It doesn’t get any better when compared to Obama: He performs best against Palin, by a margin of anywhere between 8% and 15%. Her common favourable numbers range between low-20′s to upper-30′s. And the same poll those numbers come from have only 27% of people saying she is qualified to be president.
Those are just the pits.
Now I know two years out, we saw Obama trailing Clinton by wide margins. But we’re not talk the Obama/Clinton race now. We’ve got a massively different contest and different types of candidates altogether.
What she is open for attack on is obvious, and a sorry resume if you ask me. Two-and-a-half year term as governor of Alaska. That’s is. And, not only the shortness, but she’s a quitter. She quit the governorship for unexplainable reasons. Oh sure, she tried to explain, but only God can make head or tail out of this explanation:
Failed VP candidate counts for nothing other than handshaking experience.
We hardly need to go back into the whole ‘mayor’ experience; it was laughable to say that it was experience in 2008, and now it has even legs than before.
All-in-all, she has a pretty poor list of achievements when compared to a sitting president. Don’t get me wrong, people are going to be angry with Obama. But 2012 is going to be a test of the bases. Democrats are going to be more scared of seeing Palin get in (if she runs, but she won’t) and turn out in droves than Republicans are going to be encouraged to go to the polls. Look at what the political climate will be at the time. Either:
- The Tea Party will be very happy because their new representatives have taken over the GOP, which means …
- Moderate GOPers will stay at home (majority) or vote Obama (minority), which gets combined with …
- And irate Democratic party who want to take back control of DC, are petrified of more Tea Baggers and extremists in Congress and potentially the White House and turn out in droves to reelect Obama and his posse.
- The Tea Party is fuming that their new representatives sold out to the GOP and stay at home, which means …
- Moderates are in control of the GOP, which means …
- Palin couldn’t possibly have won the primary.
- Congress has come to a complete stand-still because the GOP blends with the Tea Party and block Obama from even breathing, which means …
- Independents are fuming after voting Republican in 2010 and expecting stuff to get done, which means …
- Independents stay home (majority) or vote Obama (minority), which is combined with a cowering Democratic party that has got nothing done, to reelect Obama.
The only other path is that the GOP and Obama White House and the Democratic Senate get stuff done, which means the moderates are in control of the GOP (similar to scenario two), which is the most dangerous for Obama because then a level-headed Republican party could get one of their own to win the primary who could win the general.
Anyway, the climate is most likely going to favour Obama in any situation in which Palin wins the primary. Beating an incumbent, popular or no (see: George W. Bush, LBJ, Truman. In fact, there have been 10 post-WWII races with incumbents and 7 incumbents have won), is extremely difficult. Especially when they are preparing for you right now, with the whole White House, cabinet, and Congress at their disposal.
Palin is obviously shrewd and can see all this. The difficulty it puts on her family and their life. The pathetic polling numbers. The hard task of actually winning against Obama. Her lacking experience (which is going to be a negative, because that was Obama’s positive and look how well that has gone …). And the fact that she has a very narrow window to win this thing (about as narrow as Obama’s in 2008). I just don’t see her running and giving up so much for such a gamble.