FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

She Coulda Been a Contender

by STEWART J. LAWARENCE

Sarah Palin delivered the keynote address at the Tea Party’s national convention two weeks ago provoking wild applause and chants of "Run, Sarah Run."  But whether the former Alaska Governor is likely to emerge as a major national political figure, let alone a serious contender for the presidency, is anything but clear. 

Polls show that most Americans, and even most Republicans, are disenchanted with Palin.  Her favorability rating, which plunged to 40% at the close of the 2008 presidential campaign, has risen or fallen slightly since then, depending on which poll you read.  But the biggest change has occurred within her own party:  52% of Republicans now say that Palin’s "not qualified" for the presidency, a huge increase since last spring, when she abruptly quit her Alaska Governor’s post and embarked on a national book tour to promote her best-selling memoir, Going Rogue.

That tour, and subsequent speaking engagements, including her appearance at the Tea Party convention, which earned her a fast $100,000, has made Palin rich.  And her newfound wealth has allowed Palin to hire a gaggle of political consultants, including former Bush press secretary Dana Perino and Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s former presidential campaign manager who frequently wrangled with Palin after she became his boss’s running mate.

Sensing her enormous potential, Palin’s advisors are desperately trying to refurbish her image from a spunky "ditz" who can barely read to a fiery but intelligent spokesperson for Middle America.  And the PR campaign, less than two months old, may actually be paying off, at least with the news media.

Time magazine correspondent Joe Klein used a word not often associated with Palin when he declared her Tea Party speech "brilliant."  Syndicated columnist David Broder, meanwhile, said Palin’s speech displayed "pitch-perfect populism," and warned her critics, especially Democrats, that they were "underestimating" her. 

Not everyone agrees.

Beyond her obvious celebrity – she’s the “most admired woman in America” after Hillary Clinton – and her immense popularity with conservative Christians, Palin’s impact on the country’s conservative re-awakening – if that’s what it is – is not yet clear.  Too much of the recent debate has focused on whether Palin is presidential “timber,” but even if she isn’t, there’s little question she has more than a little kindling.   Some are comparing Palin to two other feisty and unsophisticated firebrands, George Wallace and H. Ross Perot, who managed to rock the political establishment while failing to get elected president – or anything close.  But both men’s candidacies had an enormous influence on national politics.

Wallace, despite his open racism, was the inspiration for Richard Nixon’s "Southern" strategy which convinced poor Whites to vote against their economic interests and side with the GOP on civil rights and busing.  Moreover, the Wallace campaign produced the key architects of the New Right, which provided most of the grassroots inspiration and political muscle for Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign.

Perot, meanwhile, is best remembered as the man who tipped the 1992 election to Bill Clinton.  It’s often forgotten today, but when Perot suspended his campaign that summer, he, Clinton, and George H.W. Bush were running neck-and-neck in most polls.  When Perot withdrew, he urged his followers to support Clinton over Bush, which they did, and Bush never recovered.   Perot re-entered the race under pressure from his supporters, and still managed to end up with 19% of the popular vote, a modern record for independents.

Palin, of course, is not running as an independent – not yet at least- and she may never achieve a following comparable to Wallace’s or Perot’s.   But she’s already swayed two important Senate races, John McCain’s in Arizona and Rick Perry’s in Texas.   Until Palin intervened, with enormous campaign rallies not seen in either state for decades, McCain and Perry were trailing in the polls; now both men are expected to win.  And Palin’s support is not just verbal:  her political action committee, Sarah PAC, has money to burn, and is poised to influence dozens of House races this fall.  

Part of Palin’s leverage is that she’s still trying to position herself as a bridge between the Tea Party movement and the GOP, if only because she still needs as many allies as she can get.      Other GOP figures like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, who headlined the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last week (from which Palin was politely excluded) are engaged in the same straddle.   Either man, especially Romney, is probably more electable than Palin, but neither can command the crowds or fire up the GOP base, let alone the Tea Party, like the “Thrilla from Wasilla.”

Palin may not wind up with the GOP nomination in 2012; it would probably be disastrous for Republicans to choose her.  But don’t be surprised if Romney and the other contenders come begging for her support.   And if the GOP does manage to win, she could well end up with a cabinet post, most likely Secretary of Energy.

And don’t forget:  she’s only 46.  Whatever happens in 2012, we haven’t heard the end of her.

Stewart J. Lawrence is a Washington, DC-based immigration policy specialist.  He can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com.

 

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail