Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has hit some bumps in the road in what some consider to be her inexorable attempted journey to the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.
She has some public relations problems at home — typically being blamed on poor staffing that doesn’t do the real Sarah Palin justice. And the man who plucked her out of being just one more GOP governor and his Vice Presidential nomination is not exactly rushing to endorse her for 2012.
Add to that her previous image problems — she is a favorite of the GOP’s conservative base but a punchline and was a reason not to vote Republican for many other Americans — and she has some heavy roadwork to do on the road to 2012.
First, there’s her problems at home — which are not good harbingers for someone who wants to create a groundswell of good news to prepare a (re)entry on the national stage:
A seemingly unending series of public relations gaffes has Sarah Palin loyalists frustrated and worried she is diminishing her stature. And they blame an inner circle they say is composed of not-ready-for-primetime players.
Note that it always seems as if the people around Sarah Palin (her staffers, the McCain staffers, the press) are the ones to blame and not perhaps another factor: Palin’s judgment and choice of actions, associates and words:
Interviews with Alaska and Washington-based GOP political professionals who are familiar with the Palin operation describe the governor’s team as a gang that couldn’t shoot straight, a staff whose failure to execute basic political maneuvers too often entangles the governor in awkward and embarrassing situations that could have easily been avoided.
The state of confusion is compounded by two separate Palin spheres that don’t communicate with each other, one based in the governor’s office and another based in the D.C.-area, where Palin’s political action committee is located—and the incongruous presence of a high-profile Democratic trial lawyer among her political advisers.
The lawyer, John Coale, is a former supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign who became a Palin confidante as his wife, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, interviewed the former GOP vice presidential nominee and her family numerous times during and after the election.
Their presence around Palin has become Topic A among many of her allies as well as other Republican insiders who are mystified as to why an anti-abortion rights conservative who ran against Washington elites is now turning to a pair of capital insiders for counsel.
There is another complication here as well: for Van Susteren. No matter how the Fox News host cuts it, now her interviews will now be compromised the eyes of all except fervent Sarah Palin supporters. Earlier in the year, her seemingly endless series of interviews with Palin led some to suggest she was pushing Palin personally. Now it’s not a secret. Her interviews will be perceived as PR pieces and not even talk show interviews. Van Susteren’s ties to Palin now would make a Sean Hannity interview with Palin seem like one conducted by a fiercely independent independently minded journalist by comparison.
And then there’s the case of Arizona Senator John McCain who — once again — has skirted the issue of supporting Palin in 2012 with all the smoothness of a man with two broken legs trying to do the limbo:
Sen. John McCain isn’t committing to supporting his vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, if she runs for president in 2012.
McCain — the GOP’s presidential nominee last year — says he wants to see who the other candidates are and what the situation might be.
The bottom line: if he wanted her, he’d have praised her to the hilt. If he wanted to remain aloof but wanted her, he’d have begged off but left enough hints that he feels she should be the candidate. He did neither.
The Arizona senator elevated Palin to the national stage with his surprise pick. He says he has great affection for Palin and her family. But he also cites three other governors — Utah’s John Huntsman, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty as potential candidates.
McCain joked he was going to get himself in trouble for forgetting a name.
On Friday McCain insisted to the Washington Times that he had nothing but kind words for Palin:
While Sen. John McCain’s former vice presidential candidate has criticized his campaign recently for not sharing her religious fervor, the Arizona senator has nothing but kind words for the Alaska governor who electrified Republicans last year.
“Listen, I love and respect Sarah Palin,” the 2008 Republican presidential candidate said, speaking softly in an interview Friday with reporters and editors at The Washington Times. “I love her family. I am convinced that her running on the ticket energized the Republican Party in a way that, let’s have some straight talk, that I couldn’t or didn’t.”
Mrs. Palin, the self-described “hockey mom” whose evangelical Christianity often played a prominent role in her campaign, got a laugh when she told a Republican audience in Alaska earlier this month that there was “nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray” with within the McCain campaign just before her vice presidential debate with then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat.
The governor later said she meant no disrespect, and Mr. McCain on Friday said he took no offense.
But if McCain had nothing but kind words for Palin, he didn’t offer any regarding her and 2012.
Palin’s third problem is going to be her image. A beloved Saturday Night Live parody won’t get her votes. And images of real and the satirical are still out there and potentially fare more damaging in terms of image than an old Mad magazine parody or must one Saturday Night Live sketch. These lingering images represent perceptions — and mean that if she makes one misstep she will be perceived as playing into a stereotype that she has been shoved into.
Here are some of the images out there from 2008:
Satirical: Palin as potential Disney movie (subtext: how can anyone but a GOP partisan really take her seriously?):
News: The disastrous intereview (a “medley”):
Reaction from the public: Not enough members of the GOP base in this arena:
Palin also sparked a kind of cottage industry in satirical songs…many of which weren’t exactly flattering, such as:
Palin’s problem: If she has a hope of being elected she has to go burnish her image and pick up support beyond GOPers. It turns out she hurt McCain in 2008.