Recent interpretations of national polling data have suggested that former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is “losing ground” based on movements in her image rating among all self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents. But what are we really looking at?
- FACT: The recent Washington Post/ABC news poll that is the basis the “losing ground” comments still shows Palin on the right side of the favorable/unfavorable scale with 58% having a favorable impression and 37% with an unfavorable impression.
- FACT: When a national survey asks self-identified Republicans “For whom would you vote for in the Republican primary,” the field is wide open. When the leader is polling south of 20%, no one is even come close to locking this up.
- FACT: The “self identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents” are very different from the actual caucus goers and Republican primary voters who will determine the Republican Presidential nomination. Fewer than five percent of these voters will actually be Iowa caucus participants or vote in one of the three or four early primaries that will be critical in deciding the next Republican nominee.
- FACT: At this time in 2007, the same national polls showed Rudy Giuliani as the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination and they continued to show him with sizeable leads even as it became increasingly clear he had no chance to become the nominee.
So where is Palin, a candidate who still has a favorable image among all Republicans and Republican-leaners and an even stronger one among just Republican primary voters, “losing ground?” Apparently it is among the inside-the-beltway opinion journalist set and the “conservative elite” (which translates to inside-the-beltway conservatives who have major newspaper columns and hobnob with journalists).
Consider the recent Politico story that highlighted the fear that these “conservative elite” intellectuals have of a new bloc of voters injecting an “intellectually empty brand of populism” into the conservative movement. These elites seem to believe that candidates like Palin and movements like the Tea Party are bad for conservatism because they reach instinctively the conclusions that the elites spend so much time defending with complex logical arguments.
If you spend enough time in Washington, everything begins to sound familiar. If the story about Sarah Palin and her gleeful detractors both in the mainstream press and among the “conservative elite” or Washington sounds like something our readers may have heard before, maybe it is.
There was a time, not too long ago, when leading anti-communists, supply-side thinkers, and other intellectual stars of conservatism were similarly disdainful of a newly-elected President who had been Governor of a western state. They felt that this President “didn’t get it” and was “too simplistic” in his analysis and proposals. It’s hard to find these statements today because they’ve been buried under thirty-years of self-editing and revisionism; but if you look hard enough, you might just find some of the same “conservative elites” who are attacking Sarah Palin today saying eerily similar things about Ronald Reagan in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Is this to say that Sarah Palin is the 2nd coming of Reagan? Of course not. But those that compare her to Al Sharpton are missing her appeal and casting a completely unfair assessment of the former Governor.
In the recent past these “conservative elites” have been important in how conservative voters evaluate candidates. So far their attacks on Palin aren’t having as much of an effect as one would think. And her image, especially among strong conservative voters, remains very positive.
There is a reason that every Republican candidate in the country is begging for the coveted Sarah Palin endorsement – she has appeal to a large bloc of voters that are tired of business as usual and see her as someone that they can identify with on a personal level. While there’s a significant number of people in traditional Republican circles that cringe at seeing her succeed, her greatest asset is that she can appeal to the same large voting blocs of middle class conservatives who elected conservatives in primary and general elections in 2010 and when she gets a chance to speak to increasing numbers of voters on her terms, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see her number shoot right back up.