A Tale of Two Palins
Before I get to the main point of this diary, let me say what it is not.
This is not intended to be a discussion of Sarah Palin’s qualifications for the presidency, experiential or otherwise. I will leave this to future diarists to discuss. JSobieski has promised to post to this effect in a comment to JadedByPolitics’ recent Palin missive (now at 350+ comments and 45+ recs). Frankly, I don’t personally care about that topic at this point. It is best left to later discussion when we know who the candidates are and can explore their qualifications in a comparative sense.
This diary is also not intended to be an advertisement for a Palin candidacy. Those who know me here at RS know that I have been a consistent Palin supporter (though last I checked, I didn’t have any drool running down my chin!). Much of what I discuss below could be applied to any number of potential candidates.
So what is the point? Here it is, plain and simple. It is nearly 2 years out from the presidential election of 2012. At the end of 1974, Nixon had just resigned and virtually no one had heard of a certain Georgia governor by the name of Jimmy Carter. Two years later, he was President-Elect. In 1978, most pundits thought Ronald Reagan was a right-wing warmongering extremist dunce that could never win a general election. Heck, even within a week of his 10-point victory, he was virtually tied in most polls with an incredibly ineffective and unpopular Carter. In 1990, hardly anyone thought an unknown governor of Arkansas had a shot at being elected. Two years later, we had the beginning of a 2-term Clinton presidency. And finally, in late 2006, hardly anyone thought that the Hillary Express could be stopped, especially by a newly-elected senator from Illinois with zero executive experience. The rest, as they say, is history.
The only thing funnier than watching economists attempt to forecast market trends, is watching political pundits try to forecast political elections. It is simply absurd to state with any certainty what will happen in 2012, either in the primaries or in the general election. So if you read or hear someone saying “Palin is unelectable” or “Palin will wipe the floor with Obama”, or even “Daniels is too boring to win” or “Pence is not well-known enough to win a national election” or “Mickey Mouse could beat Obama in 2012″ or any variation thereof, feel free to chuckle out loud at the absurdity of the statement. Anyone (including me!) who would make such a statement is either separated from reality or, more likely, exposing their personal bias towards or against a particular candidate.
All that said, the ultimate point of this diary (as belied by the title), is to particularly address the first of the absurd statements mentioned above (i.e. “Palin is unelectable”). We don’t know if she’ll even run, and she very well may fall flat on her face in the primaries. But the political landscape of Alaska, and to some extent America, is littered with the carcasses of those who have underestimated her. So here I will make an argument for at least the plausability of a Palin general election victory.
It was the worst of times…
Sarah Palin of November 2010
- is a failed GOP vice-presidential candidate
- is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as divisive and polarizing by many voters, particularly independents
- has an upside-down favorability rating
- is viewed by many voters as “stupid” or intellectually “uncurious”
- has a personal and family life viewed as a national soap opera by many
- is best known for only one interview in which she did not perform well
- trails Obama in all head-to-head early polling
- has many Republicans (even conservative ones) doubting that she is qualified to be president
- is viewed as “unelectable” by many in the GOP
- has never participated in a presidential debate
- is not actually running for president
It was the best of times…
OK, you have to use your imagination for this one! As mentioned above, she may not even run. But if she does, even many of those who view her as “unelectable” in the general election, acknowledge that she would be a formidable candidate for the GOP nomination. So imagine we have just come out of the 2012 nominating conventions, and Sarah Palin is the GOP nominee. Now consider the
Sarah Palin of September 2012
- has been a candidate for president for months
- has run a successful campaign for the GOP nomination, defeating several other qualified candidates
- has participated in a good number of presidential debates, apparently successfully
- has demonstrated the ability to garner support across a broad geographical area necessary to win the nomination
- has a unified GOP behind her, motivated to prevent a second Obama term
- has given literally dozens of national interviews to a public now forced to consider her as a viable candidate
- has a running mate with his/her own political and geographic strengths (as long as we’re imagining, maybe it’s Marco Rubio?)
- is now a truly historic figure as the first woman nominee of a major party and one step removed from being the first woman president
As I argued above, it would be foolish of me to say that this would certainly all end well. If this scenario were to occur, Palin could well go down in flames in the general election. She may utterly fail at being able to pull independent voters to the GOP. But keep in mind that the “worst of times” Palin trails Obama in head-to-head polls by anywhere from 4-12 points right now. It is not at all implausible to view the “best of times” Palin as being able to more than make up this margin. And this argument is based solely on the characteristics described above. It does not depend on any magical transformation of her personality or her image. It simply follows from a successful campaign.
So please, if you want to discuss the pros/cons of a Palin candidacy (or Romney, Huckabee, Pence, Pawlenty, Gingrich or whoever), let’s do it. But beware of stating unequivocally that any candidate is “unelectable” or “a shoe-in”. At 700+ days prior to the election, that is equivalent to a meterologist telling you it is going to snow on Super Bowl Sunday 2012.