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Palin’s Path Is Not Through Senate

Not until 2014. Perhaps.

The drive-by media is at it again – Politico, in this instance, fanning the embers of resentment between Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Lisa Murkowski, both of Alaska, and hoping to start a fire. Since Sarah defeated Frank Murkowski, the senator’s father, on her way to the governor’s mansion, there has been some bad blood between Palin and the Murkowski family.

When asked in an interview about the prospect of a potential challenge to Murkowski for her senate seat by Gov. Palin, the senator answered that it would be a tough fight and a risky one for Pain. Now Politico writer Manu Raju has authored an article with the inflammatory headline, “Murkowski to Palin: Leave my seat alone.” Leave it to the drive-bys to try to start a cat fight between Alaska’s two most prominent women in politics, hoping for a battle that would leave both of them bloodied and weakened.

The simple truth is that Sarah Palin doesn’t need a Senate seat if she harbors the presidential ambition that nearly everyone believes she does. Why are the drive-bys pushing the notion that the Senate is the best gateway to the White House? The ’08 election, pitting two senators against each other, was the exception rather than the rule. In the modern political era, a governor’s mansion has been a much more likely path to the presidency.

Raju gives three potential advantages Palin could gain by getting into the Senate:

“…a national platform, and with it the chance to beef up a thin résumé and rebuild damaged credibility on foreign policy and other issues.”

Ah, but Palin already has a national platform. Every time she leaves Alaska to campaign for someone or to attend a meeting, she’s major news. Actually, even when she’s home in Alaska, she’s news.

Her resume is no thinner than that of the president-elect, and hers has the benefit of executive experience that his lacks, or at least will lack until he is coronated next month. The best way for Sarah Palin to build her resume is to continue to be an effective governor and to shepherd that gas pipeline she worked so hard to make possible into the construction phase. Although she has to squeeze her state’s budget now that the price of oil and gas are low, they are commodities which won’t remain cheap for long. She could also take a bold step by getting a test project started on the North Slope to find ways to process some of that bonanza of frozen natural gas that was recently discovered. Sometime around 2010, assuming she gets re-elected, she could make a run for chair of the RGA.

A Senate seat would gain her no foreign policy creds unless she could also finagle a seat on the Foreign Relations or the Intelligence committees, not easily done for a freshman senator. As governor, Palin can travel to Iraq to visit the troops, as she did when she dropped in on her state’s Nation Guard troops deployed in Kuwait. She can travel to some of the nations that are Alaska’s trading partners (Japan, South Korea, and China the top three for her state). It also wouldn’t hurt for her to attend an energy, trade or climate summit in Europe, either.

Gov. Palin can get Fred Thompson to mentor her on national security, intel and foreign policy. His chops in the field are excellent. He was a visiting AEI fellow who studied national security and intelligence (China, North Korea, and Russia). Fred also was Special counsel to both the Senate Intel and FR committees, chair of the State Dept.’s International Security Advisory Board and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. There’s some low-level buzz among the Palinisti that Fred may already be quietly tutoring Sarah on FR and federal gov’t waste (he wrote the book). Jeri Thompson has taken a leading role in Team Sarah, a group of mostly women that’s supporting Palin, and there’s speculation that Jeri has persuaded Fred to help mentor the governor.

Palin’s approval ratings in Alaska have slipped from a high of 80% to about 65% after nine tough weeks as a VP candidate with all of the media and Democrat guns firing at her, not to mention some Republican sniper rifles as well. 65% is still not bad at all for a sitting governor and much higher than that of congress. Why would she want to go to the Senate and see that 65% approval drop into the teens? The Senate is the epitome of a good old boys club, and its not one which Sarah Palin, as a junior senator with no seniority could even begin to reform as she is trying to reform Alaska’s state government.

Like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Palin has unfinished business and new challenges in Alaska, some of it as a result of her vice presidential candidacy. In several ways, the two face the same problems, as the Pelican State also has an economy which depends on the fortunes of the energy sector. Low gas and oil prices are forcing both governors to find solutions, none of which will be universally popular ones.

Sarah Palin doesn’t need a Senate seat, at least not until she has served two full terms as governor. If she runs for president in 2012 and loses, then she could challenge Mark Begich for his seat in 2014. Begich would probably be a much easier target than Murkowski, as the Democrat barely managed to defeat an 85-year-old convicted felon in an election year when Republicans had the deck stacked against them.

Lisa Murkowski is right about one thing. A challenge by Palin to Murkowksi for her senate seat would be a risk, and it’s one the governor doesn’t need to take. If Sarah Palin wants to be the leader of the national Republican Party, going to war with the person who is soon to be her state’s only Republican senator is not the best way to go about it. It’s time for Sarah Palin to throw a bucket of water on the media’s bed of coals. A meeting between Alaska’s governor and the woman who will soon be its senior senator, complete with a joint show of Republican solidarity, would be a good exercise in fire prevention and an important step in reconstructing the GOP.

- JP

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