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Posted by on Nov 16, 2009 in Arts & Entertainment, Media, Politics | 10 comments

Palin’s Magical Mystery Book Tour: Birth or Death of a Serious Presidential Candidacy?

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Sarah Palin’s magical mystery book tour has begun — a media blitz in which she’ll appear far and wide, and get interviewed by all and sundry. The immediate, short-term goal: to hype up interest in her new book and sell a zillion copies.

She’ll be appearing with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh — the ying and yang of modern American media. You can rest assured that many conservatives will defend, call her fascinating and say those who criticize her are afraid of her future political power and trying to discredit her if the dare criticize her or call into question the book’s accuracy. Most liberals will call her a living caricature, say she deserves criticism and claim they are wishing she run in 2012 so the GOP can be obliterated — a sign of an assumption that some say is a risky one. Meanwhile extensive fact checking is going on (and some have cast doubts on its accuracy).

The AP calls her book “a tame affair.” But the prevailing question is going to be: will the unfolding Palin book blitz be something that will make her a more serious candidate or solidify her current status as a political celebrity whose future for political office seems grabbed from the card deck?

One thing is certain: already leaked quotes of her book have led some to say it is mostly a payback, lash-out aimed at Arizona Sen. John McCain and his staff for the way they “dissed” her when she ran as Veep on the McCain-Palin 2008 Presidential ticket. Usually books by candidates who seek the Presidency tell an affirmative story about the candidate; Palin’s book already has gotten the reputation of containing a big chunk telling the story of her as victim, battling short-sighted, not-nice McCain aides — and it has set off a brouhaha between Palin and the former McCainites (as the Palin Levin Johnston tabloid style feud rages on...).

CBS’s Bob Schieffer flatly predicts Palin has no future in elected politics:

Conservative New York Times’ columnist David Brooks, who has never been a Palin fan, dismisses here as “a joke:”

Speaking the day before Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue,” is slated to be officially released, Brooks scoffed at the notion that the ex-governor was somehow ready to be the face of the GOP.

“She’s a joke,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean, I just can’t take her seriously. We have got serious problems in the country. Barack Obama is trying to handle war. We just had a guy elected Virginia governor who is probably the model for future of the Republican Party, Bob McDonnell: Pretty serious guy, pragmatic, calm, kind of boring. The idea that this potential talk show host is considered seriously for the Republican nomination, believe me, it will never happen. Republican primary voters are just not going to elect a talk show host.”

But, once more, the question is whether Palin’s critics who say or suggest she is a joke get the ostensible joke? Could it be that the book will solidify her status in the GOP with the talk radio political culture conservatives and tea party protest movement at a time when the GOP seems increasingly re-adjusting (some say downsizing) the size of its tent?

But does winning the hearts and minds of the GOP base signify a key in the nomination battle and, if it goes that far, an election? The longtime conventional wisdom is: that’s unlikely,unless Democrats pay the game they play every few election cycles of deciding to teach their party leadership a lesson by staying home (and later learning a lesson about how elections have broader consequences when they’re not in power and complaining about GOP environmental policies, judicial appointments and other issues)? Newsweek Editor John Meacham sees Palin as having already had an impact on the party’s tone:

Now comes Sarah Palin, an heir to the Goldwater tradition, to try to harness the conservative discontent abroad in the land. Her political celebrity is so powerful that it has reduced a large part of the Republican Party to irrationality and civic incoherence. According to Gallup, Republicans are more likely to say they would seriously consider voting for Palin for president (65 percent) than to say she is qualified for the job (58 percent). At the moment she is promoting a book. But she is also, inevitably, promoting a distinctive political sensibility.

What Obama advisers privately refer to as “Palinism” has created a climate of ideological purity inside the GOP. To deviate from the anti-Obama line at all—that is, to acknowledge that politics is the art of compromise—risks the censure of the party. Pure ideologues will argue that this is a good thing; others like, say, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close friend of Palin’s onetime champion John McCain, think differently. Graham was denounced last week by the Charleston County Republican Party for working with Democrats on issues such as climate change; the senator’s office replied by invoking President Reagan’s belief that “elected officials need to find common ground and work together to solve difficult problems.”

He believes Reagan wouldn’t cut it with Palin’s fans today:

…the Reagan style was one that might not have passed muster with Palin’s adoring fans. Reagan realized that movement conservatives like him needed moderate conservatives to win and ultimately to govern. In 1976, in his challenge to President Ford, Reagan announced that he would run with Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, a Rockefeller Republican. It never came to that, but four years later, in Detroit, Reagan seriously considered only two men for the ticket: Ford and George H.W. Bush, both men from the middle, not the far right, of the Republican Party. It is difficult to imagine the 2012 nominee choosing a more moderate running mate, not least because there are so few moderates left in the GOP. Even those of centrist inclinations are finding it virtually impossible to work with the administration for fear of a backlash from the base.

…We are at our best as a country when there is something approaching a moderate space in politics. The middle way is not always the right way—far from it. But sometimes it is, and a wise nation should cultivate a political spirit that allows opponents to cooperate without fearing an automatic execution from their core supporters. Who knew that the real rogues in American politics would be the ones who dare to get along?

But “moderate” is now a dirty word to some in both parties, while others approach it from their own anchor (any idea that is to the left of someone means the other person is not a moderate; an idea that is the right of someone means that person is not a moderate). TAnd, in national terms, “moderate” center may shift to the right or left in a given election cycle or two.

How is Palin doing with non-base voters so far? A new poll suggests that rather that going rogue, she’s going south:

The buildup to her new book hasn’t eased Sarah Palin’s political challenges: Just over half of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll have an unfavorable opinion of her overall, as many say they wouldn’t consider supporting her for president and more – six in 10 – see her as unqualified for the job

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Basically, the polls show that she has not changed the kinds of numbers she gets. She has not expanded her constituency:

Today 43 percent of Americans express a favorable opinion of Palin overall, while 52 percent see her unfavorably. Favorability is the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity; in politics, where majorities win, it’s trouble when it goes negative, as it’s been for Palin since October 2008.

Intensity is against her as well: considerably more see her “strongly” unfavorably, 34 percent, than strongly favorably, 20 percent.

Fifty-three percent say they definitely would not vote for Palin if she were to run for president in 2012; that compares with 9 percent who say they’d definitely support her, while the rest, 37 percent, would consider it. (For comparison, in a 2006 ABC/Post poll fewer flatly ruled out Hillary Clinton, 42 percent, and fewer still wouldn’t consider John McCain, 28 percent.)

Palin moreover fails a basic hurdle on the road to the White House, were she to choose to take it: Just 38 percent of Americans see her as qualified to serve as president; 60 percent think she’s not qualified for the job.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza looks at the poll and writes:

Since she was plucked from near total obscurity by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last summer, Palin has emerged as one of the most divisive figures in the country — serving as a sort of cipher for how people view themselves and their relationship to politics.

Think Washington is out of touch with your values and ideals? To you, Palin is a truth-teller, a fresh face who doesn’t talk like or think like other politicians. (And, that’s a good thing.)

See politics as serious business that needs to be conducted by deep thinkers with long intellectual pedigrees? Then Palin is a dangerous force in the country, woefully unprepared and not sufficiently serious to run just about anything.

Palin’s problem is that while the intensity surrounding her is good for book sales, a look inside the numbers suggests she has significant political weaknesses as a result of it.

Rassmussen finds Palin hugely popular within today’s GOP:

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republican voters say former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin shares the values of most GOP voters throughout the nation.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 21% of Republican voters disagree and think the 2008 vice presidential candidate does not share their values. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided.

By contrast, 74% of Republicans say their party’s representatives in Congress have lost touch with GOP voters nationwide over the past several years. Only 18% of Republican voters believe their elected officials have done a good job representing the base.

The question for Palin is not whether she’s going to be praised by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity; be defended and praised by websites and blogs that can always count on to praise and defend her and attack those who don’t; be the darling of those who think the GOP should not run or should marginalize those who don’t adhere to a strict 21st century conservative line. The question is what inroads she makes among other voters even some Republicans who reject the idea of smaller-tent Republicanism.

Can she expand her constituency or will her career be centered on consolidating it?

Even so, are all the polls and conventional wisdom on the right, left and center (including the assumptions in this post) missing something? Could it be, in fact, that Palin is well-positioned to win the GOP nomination? Walter Shapiro (an excellent political analyst) says don’t write her off:

More than two years before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, presidential speculation should come with a soothsayer’s money-back guarantee. But what all the discussions of Palin’s future miss is the way that Republican Party rules are made-to-order for a well-funded insurgent named Sarah to sweep the primaries before anyone figures out how to stop her. If Palin can maintain, say, 35-percent support in a multi-candidate presidential field, then she is the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination.

The secret of Palin’s presidential potential is the Republican Party’s affection for winner-take-all primaries…….If Palin launches a 2012 race – and survives the South Carolina primary with her aura intact – she could theoretically sweep the winner-take-all states without ever winning a majority anywhere. The Republican establishment (the congressional leadership, the governors, the major donors and national consultants) could all agree that Palin would be an electoral disaster against Obama in November and still be powerless to halt her juggernaut.

The best way to stop Sarah would be for GOP insiders to rally quickly around a single anti-Palin candidate. But such cabals rarely work in politics because there are too many egos involved. Would, say, Romney be so panicked about Palin that he would prematurely abandon his presidential ambitions to support a potentially more winnable candidate like maybe Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty? Not bloody likely. For that matter, would populist Huckabee drop out in favor of a big-business Republican like Romney to prevent Palin mania? Yeah, sure…Jiggering with the primaries might be the first manifestation of a top-down Stop Palin movement. Otherwise, winner-take-all Republican primaries may speed the nomination of the most polarizing presidential nominee since the Democrats picked George McGovern in 1972.

Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor says: get ready for the Sarah Palin blitz since it will accelerate:

If you follow book headlines (or headlines of any kind), brace yourself in preparation for this week. Pretty much what you are going to be hearing and seeing is all Sarah Palin, all the time. Her memoir “Going Rogue: An American Life” (on sale as of tomorrow) is already a bestseller. And the chatter surrounding it is only going to get more intense.

….But you can bet that the media will be following her wherever she goes.

At the same time, the media and the blogosphere are already electric with dueling accounts of what is accurate in her book. “Going Rogue” apparently paints an unflattering picture of some former aides t0 the McCain campaign, blaming them for some of Palin’s missteps during the campaign.

But now, the McCain camp is firing back. Various former aides are speaking out, and one has released to ABC News e-mails that appear to contradict some of the accounts in Palin’s book.

Whether you are a Palin supporter or not, there will be no avoiding her image this week – at least, not unless you turn off TV, radio, and swear off the Internet for a minimum of a week.

And there will be no avoiding her image for some months (or years?) to come..

Here are a few more takes on Palin and her book:

Rick Moran:

The question before us is can the narrative regarding Palin be altered to make her a viable candidate for 2012? With 60% of the American people currently dead set against voting for her for president under any circumstances, it would seem to be a very tall mountain for her to climb in order for her to achieve the respect of the voters; something she never had to begin with among a majority and seems to have damaged herself further by abandoning her office. Her tabloid like-presence in American culture has also dragged her down, as has the fact that very few of the elites in the Republican party take her seriously as a party leader.

And well they shouldn’t. They may fear her influence with the 20% or so of the party who would support her aspirations in 2012, but beyond that, they and most of the rest of us find it difficult to take one so shallow and uninformed seriously. As far as I can tell, she has done little in the intervening year since the election to rectify her appalling ignorance of the world, and even domestic issues like health care. The author of the “death panels” remark may have succeeded in scaring old people to death but if I were her, I would hardly stand on that as an accomplishment.

Her fan base – and indeed many on the right – applauded her fear mongering because they believe it slowed down the legislative process and got conservatives back in the game. I believe they are overstating her influence as there were other factors, including senior citizens both Democrat and Republican who were already up in arms over the proposed Medicare cuts who showed up in droves at town hall meetings and voiced their concerns. In effect, Palin may have simply tossed some nitro on an already volatile situation.

Andrew Sullivan has been making a list of Palin…inaccuracies…for months:

And by the way, governor Palin, since you clearly read this blog: which of the 32 lies we have already documented can you rebut? We’d be delighted to give you a platform to clear up any factual inaccuracies or misunderstandings that we might have unwittingly published by merely relying on the public record. Presumably, you have more facts at your disposal that could disprove these odd untruths. Any time you want to make your case, we will happily publish your response in full with no edits so you can explain the vast discrepancy between observed reality and your version of it.

Or is this offer libelous as well?

-Say Anything:

Personally, I wish she hadn’t decided to re-open her issues with the McCain campaign staffers in the book. I think it’s obvious to any honest observer that they mishandled her and, after the campaign, outright attacked her. But is it really helpful for Palin, and even conservatives in general, to re-live those not-especially-proud moments from last year?

I understand Palin’s impulse for some for-the-record retribution, but the most it’s going to result in is McCain’s former campaign staffers going on all the talking head shows and ripping her to shreds for journalists who are all but cheering them on.

Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lay. Palin, at least from the tone of this review, would have been better served focusing on her biography, policy and the future than digging up corpses from the 2008 campaign.

-My DD’s Charles Lemos:

Since being plucked from obscurity for the Vice Presidential slot on the GOP ticket fifteen months ago, Sarah Palin has captivated and bemused the nation though not necessarily in a good way. To her fans she is Sarah, the second coming of Ronald Reagan which is grossly unfair since whatever his faults Reagan could at least speak in complete sentences using his training as an actor to muddle through whatever uncomfortable scene there was to perform or failing that resort to his charming self-deprecating humor. Palin is devoid of such talents. When challenged, she is nothing but a vindictive victim. That’s the drama being played out now one serious lashing out at all things McCain….

Hers is a fifteen month train wreck in the making but she is seemingly not done. Perhaps she thinks that she is capable of a resurrection. With the release of her gospel according to Sarah of the Delusions, the I can’t be bothered to finish to my one term stint as Governor in Juneau descends upon the lower 48 where raptured and raucous crowds surely await her as she spouts inanities about death panels, free markets and pipelines to nowhere. While David Brooks is lucid enough to dismiss her as a joke, others on the intellectual side of the GOP equation, such the Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti, seem to think that whatever Sarah’s foibles in the past they are remediable. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Continetti assures us that if she can just win over a few percentage points among independents that they will be “serving moose burgers in the White House” come 2013.

The cartoon by Taylor Jones, Politicalcartoons.com is copyrighted and licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.


And for those not fond on Palin: