Our political Quote of the Day comes from The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes who answers the question: how badly has soon-to-be-former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hurt her 2012 Presidential chances by her abrupt announcement that she’ll resign? Given that this is coming from Barnes, this is bad:
Forget about Sarah Palin as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and probably ever. She may have no interest in seeking the GOP nomination. But if she does, her chances of winning the nomination have been minimized by her decision to resign as governor of Alaska. She’s knocked out one of three legs of the presidential stool and a second one is wobbly.
I say this reluctantly because Palin, in my view, is the most exciting Republican figure to emerge in decades. She mesmerizes crowds in a way that no other Republican leader can come close to matching. She has what can’t be taught–real charisma.
This again underscores the problem with many Republicans: the frame of reference is always exciting Republican voters, when what the party will need is someone who can excite Republican voters and who also has the political skills to frame things in a way to attract independent voters and Democrats who may not belong to the Democratic party’s far left. Palin’s “charisma” is one most heavily felt by Republicans. Palin is the “it” candidate for GOPers but has not proven to have the same appeal to non-Republicans on the national scene. MORE:
But personal magnetism is only one of the legs, or underpinnings, for a successful race for the Republican nomination. The other two are experience in office and enough knowledge of foreign and domestic issues to talk about them persuasively. By stepping down, she’s cut her experience short: it now consists of a meager two and a half years as governor of a thinly populated state. And, from all appearances, Palin has made little headway on the issue track.
Even a super-abundance of charisma cannot make up for her shortcomings in experience and knowledge. It might be enough if she were running for a lesser office. The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California proves that point. But running for president on charisma alone? I don’t think so.
You only have to look at the Republican nominees since World War II to see what’s required. Not one.
It doesn’t look good for Palin when Barnes, one of her biggest admirers who has made that clear in both print and in his broadcast appearances, says that although hope springs eternal it won’t be enough in this case.
Barnes goes on to offer an interesting analysis, but again it is notable that’s what missing is how winning candidates and successful Presidents need some cross-over appeal. Under Bush-Rove, the U.S. experienced how politics would function under a President whose support is almost exclusively from his own party. There are several issues that that kind of Presidency then must grapple with. A key one is the most obvious: a President whose support is almost exclusively derived from his own party or his party’s base then risks having no safety net when things go bad and an even smaller support mechanism if many things go bad and his party base starts to shrink.
Palin has shown no signs yet of being a candidate who appeals to those who don’t already like her.
Read Barnes’ piece in full. Where does he mention anything about cross-over appeal?
Rather, he says Palin does have a way out — by defeating a Democrat and getting back into public office:
I first met Palin in 2007 and talked to her over lunch at the governor’s mansion in Juneau. I was impressed. She talked quite ably about energy, taxes, and the environment–issues on the table in Alaska. I wrote a highly favorable story about her. I thought she was a brilliant choice as McCain’s vice presidential running mate in 2008.
By itself, two months on the Republican ticket won’t propel her to the presidential nomination. But there is a way: win Alaska’s lone House seat in 2012 and oust Democratic senator Nick Begich in 2014. A term in the House and another in the Senate–nothing would do more to groom her for the White House than this and transform her into the best Republican candidate for the presidency in, say, 2020, when she’d be 56.
Fair enough. But many GOPers today might not agree with Barnes that Palin was a “brilliant choice”…or at least some in the GOP…and some independent voters…and some women voters (polls showed after the election)…and some Democrats who might not be Barack Obama fans.
And that is Palin’s long term problem — and the problem for those in the GOP who still think that John McCain displayed a stroke of utter genius when chose picked her.
UPDATE: Even more thumbs down — this time from New York Times’ conservative columnist Ross Douthat:
If Sarah Palin’s political career ended last Friday, 10 tumultuous months after she was introduced as the Republican Party’s vice-presidential nominee, those five words will be its epitaph.
Had she refused John McCain, Palin would still be a popular female governor in a Republican Party starved for future stars. Her scandals would be the stuff of local politics, her daughter’s pregnancy a minor story in the Lower 48, her son Trig’s parentage a nonissue even for conspiracy theorists. There would still be plenty of time to ease into the national spotlight, to bone up on the issues, and to craft a persona more appealing than the Mrs. Spiro Agnew role the McCain campaign assigned to her.
Most important, nobody would have realized yet how much she looks like Tina Fey.
But she said yes. It wasn’t the right thing to do, in hindsight, but it was certainly the human thing. She was coming off a charmed rise through statewide politics. John McCain was offering her a spot on a national ticket. It was the chance of a lifetime.
And now, seemingly, it’s over. Oh, maybe not forever: she’s only 45, young enough (and, yes, talented enough) to have a second act. But last Friday’s bizarre, rambling resignation speech should take her off the political map for the duration of the Obama era.
He also offers a take on polls that most other analysts don’t, arguing that she has shown she has substantial cross over political appeal. He sites one poll in particular (election results did not show that she was a magnet who attracted voters beyond the GOP base):
If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure. But this caricature has always missed the point of the Alaska governor’s appeal — one that extends well outside the Republican Party’s shrinking base.
In a recent Pew poll, 44 percent of Americans regarded Palin unfavorably. But slightly more had a favorable impression of her. That number included 46 percent of independents, and 48 percent of Americans without a college education.
That last statistic is a crucial one. Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.
This ideal has had a tough 10 months. It’s been tarnished by Palin herself, obviously. With her missteps, scandals, dreadful interviews and self-pitying monologues, she’s botched an essential democratic role — the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites, the up-by-your-bootstraps role embodied by politicians from Andrew Jackson down to Harry Truman.
But it’s also been tarnished by the elites themselves, in the way that the media and political establishments have treated her.
The problem: Americans generally don’t elect candidates who run as victims. Palin needs to expand her base and show substantive knowledge on key issues — something that will be harder to do if she’s hyping her book, talking to like-minded groups that pay her big bucks, or preaching to the choir on Fox News. She presumably doesn’t aspire to be President of the choir but President of the United States and, if she’s only singing her choir’s songs, she won’t go beyond that. And resigning now takes away a potent microphone.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.