The Palin Factor
September 3rd is fast approaching and a lot of people are suddenly buzzing that she will declare her candidacy for the Presidency at that time. Karl Rove is convinced. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal thinks she will not run. A lot of Sarah Palin supporters have been telling me she’ll announce that day that she is running and I’m a fool and idiot for thinking she won’t run. Now her PAC is saying don’t believe the hype about September 3rd.The analysts, etc. are really just looking at it being roughly the anniversary of her speech to the Republican Convention in 2008 and hearing all the Palin supporters say she will announce that day and Karl Rove’s desperation to get someone in the race to stop Rick Perry’s momentum and they are coming up with September 3rd as the date Palin will announce. And yes, in the past month, each time I’ve said I did not think Palin would run, I’ve had Palin supporters email me and say she would and they kept fixating on September 3rd, though no one officially in the Palin camp has said anything. Lots of Palin’s fans hopes and Karl Rove’s desire to stay in the mix have contributed to a lot of hype. (Full disclosure: all the emails I’ve been getting could just be Karl Rove and Bill Kristol via one outsourced spammer in Mumbai)I am in the “will believe it when I see it” camp and still don’t think she will run. One factor that keeps me there is her Fox News contract. For multiple weeks prior to Mike Huckabee declaring he would not run, leaks starting coming out of Fox News that the pressure was on for him to make up his mind.We are not hearing the same about Palin and that suggests to me she will not run.But if I’m wrong and she does run, what of it? What will her impact be.For a variety of reasons, I think Mitt Romney will be doing the Snoopy dance, which I think is why Karl Rove is so giddy that she is getting in (I’m definitely not the first to think this). Palin will shake up the race, but there are signs if she gets in she is going to have to lay out a careful strategy and not just rely on the force of her own personality and message.
First off is polling out of Iowa that Neil Stevens highlighted suggesting Iowa Republicans prefer that she not get in.I think some of this is genuine, but I also think some of this is people who just gave up on her getting in. More troubling for Palin is the Gallup polling that shows she has roughly 95% name recognition and only 12% support for the Presidency.If Palin gets in, that number will change dramatically. We can kind of see this with Rick Perry. He polled rather low until he announced and then his support level increased. People don’t think Palin will run right now and if she got in, suddenly she would be much more popular.But could she win? That is the million dollar question. Most polling suggests she cannot win the general election. Most polling also suggested Ronald Reagan could not win the general election in 1980. A fundamental difference was that Palin has 95% name recognition right now and
Reagan was far from that recognition in 1980, even though he’d run in the 1976 primary against Ford. UPDATED: According to Nate Silver, Reagan’s name ID was actually 90%, which is different from what I’d read. But that then raises a more serious issue for Sarah Palin. Reagan had 28.8% support with 90% name ID and Sarah Palin has only 12% support at 95% name ID. As Silver points out, John McCain is the only Republican candidate in the modern era to win a GOP nomination despite not leading in the early polls. And McCain, unlike Palin, was in second place to Giuliani.If Palin gets in, she is going to have to work very, very hard to rehabilitate her image among not just independent voters, but also — and I think this is key — conservative Republican voters who long ago gave up on the dream of a Palin 2012 candidacy and moved on. Many of those voters have signed on to other campaigns. While Palin fans may assure themselves that those former Palin supporters would come home quickly, I don’t yet see any evidence for that and think, at least initially, Palin would drag down everyone except MItt Romney.Don’t county Sarah Palin out. She keeps surprising everyone. But don’t count her the winner either.Heck, right now, we’re all going to have wait and see whether or not she even runs come September 3rd. I’ll believe it when I see it.