Stop the Presses | The GOP’s Palin Quandary

Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m a Republican Party strategist. So I’m musing on the news that somehow, some way, Sarah Palin is even more popular among the GOP base now that she’s up and quit her job as governor of Alaska barely halfway through her one term in office, that two-thirds of my faithful want her to continue being a major political figure. 

(The real Chris feels like he needs a bath now just having typed those words. Sorry. Back to the role-playing.)

I’m trying to think of what my next step would be as a Republican strategist. I’ve got this witless bimbo over here on the one hand who draws big crowds to hear her wade inarticulately around the issues of the day, honestly with the great bulk of what she has to say being about herself, the ultimate cult of personality, and on the other hand I have a pretty good bench full of candidates, including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, who should be at the forefront of the conversation about 2012.

And I’ve got a good case to make to the American people about the future direction of the country. Is the stimulus approach the right approach to getting the economy moving again? Can we do a national health-care solution that protects the private providers of health care and health insurance while also extending health coverage to more Americans?

If I can craft a path between here and 2012, I’m thinking I’m asking Palin to, I dunno, maybe take Fox News up on what I assume will be a pending offer to host a nightly talk show, maybe send her out to make stump speeches in targeted congressional and Senate races, the targets being the Deep South, where she can throw the red meat to the base of the base and raise money that we can divert elsewhere, and otherwise get the point across that, well, you know, Sarah, it sure would be nice if you’d steer as clear as you can from even thinking about the White House.

The Republican base that Karl Rove so carefully built up in advance of the 2000 and 2004 elections is on the verge of becoming an irrelevant factor in national elections. We can’t say that it is already because of the John McCain factor in 2008. Me personally, I don’t know any Republicans who were fired up about McCain, but I knew plenty who were pumped over Palin, though I’d have to venture a guess that I know just as many Democrats who were motivated a bit differently by Palin to get out and work harder for their cause.

That all said, Palin fired up the base last year alright, but it still wasn’t anywhere close to being enough to get the Republican ticket over the top. As an aside, Had it been Romney-Palin instead of McCain-Palin, I think the GOP side does better. I also think the GOP does better in ’08 with McCain-Romney, personally, just as I think the Democratic side does better with Obama-Clinton vs. Obama-Biden.

I didn’t see moving Palin to the top of the ticket changing things around in 2012 before she quit her governor’s job and backed out on her responsibilities to Alaska voters. Now that she’s done that, whatever her real motivation, and I assume it to be what she’s suggested, purely political, not the result, as some are trying to intimate, the reaction to some big bombshell bad-news revelation about an ethics breach or other kind of corruption, I think she’s rendered herself unelectable in November 2012.

But as for the runup to the spring of 2012, when Republicans are trying to come together on a nominee, yeah, she has to be on the short list of top contenders at this far-out point in time. A Rasmussen Reports survey out this morning has her running a close second to Romney just ahead of Huckabee among GOP voters looking ahead to 2012, and nothing short of there actually being something to the musings on the ‘Net about why she quit her job will change that between now and then.

So me being this Republican strategist, I’m left in quite the quandary. I believe strongly in my party and its philosophy, and that we need to put ourselves in a position to effect change both in the next congressional and Senate elections in 2010 and in the 2012 presidential election. I believe just as strongly that the Palin Way is the wrong way for us to be going.

Now back to me being the Democratic strategist that I am – I wonder if this is what is going through the minds of my friends on the other side of the political aisle, and how many of them are going to put their careers at risk sharing their thoughts to this effect as we roll toward 2012.

  

– Column by Chris Graham


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