I wrote this post quite awhile ago, but came back to it this morning after reading this excellent profile on Joe Scarborough:
The fellows over at the Atlantic -- Andrew Sullivan and Josh Green, namely -- have batted around the likelihood of newly christened reality show star and former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin running for (and winning) the Republican nomination in 2012.
I still can't fathom why any conservative would consider voting for Palin over, say, Tim Pawlenty or John Thune. Pawlenty and Thune -- like the rest of the Republican field, save perhaps Ron Paul -- have similar if not identical policy positions to Palin in nearly every respect. They have the added resume bonus of not having quit in the middle of their respective first terms, and don't suffer from Palin's stratospheric disapproval ratings.
As noted by none other than George Will, Palin's supporters demonstrate a "monomanical" fervor about media bias, unwilling to accept that while it exists, doesn't tilt elections, and are "unhinged by their anger about the loathing of Sarah Palin by similarly deranged liberals. These conservatives, confusing pugnacity with a political philosophy, are hot to anoint Palin, an emblem of rural and small-town sensibilities, as the party's presumptive 2012 nominee."
Will wryly noted that this worldview portrays the American electorate as a bovine herd, susceptible to the cunningness of the evil media, whose advances only Palin's wily supporters can resist.
In October 2008, Peggy Noonan put it thusly:
"But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? ... In the past two weeks she has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn't, really, understand. This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagiens is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine. She could reinspire and reinspirit; she chooses to merely excite."
Certainly, if she ran in 2012, Palin would make a bit of noise. But the more apt comparison is not to Obama -- who although campaigning solely on the force of his personality (as Palin likely will), built an enormous, robust grassroots campaign throughout Iowa and other states that allowed him to steamroll up behind Hillary Clinton and eventually steal the nomination -- but rather to the self-adoring John Edwards, who languished a distant third behind his two rivals, making no case for himself outside of his laughably self-indulgent crusade against poverty, and refused to quit the race until he was promised a spot in the new administration (didn't happen) -- so he simply waited until the eventual winner was clear and then picked sides.
If Palin runs, she will not win. Period. Certainly, she has supporters, many of them ready to demonize anyone who dares speak ill of her at any turn. But there are too many other serious adults who will likely run -- Pawlenty and Mitt Romney at the top of the list. If Mike Huckabee chooses to leave his cushy post at Fox News and jump into the race, he will siphon off Palin supporters. Palin will never be more popular than she is now, because she is so patently ignorant about public policy and bereft of ideas that she will get steamrolled when she has to face off against the other, much better qualified candidates in a debate. Palin's supporters will see empathy and wit in Mike Huckabee, policy wonkishness in Newt Gingrich, reasonableness in Tim Pawlenty and sincerity in John Thune.
Beyond even that, I think Republicans understand that she will get obliterated in the general election.
Republican voters are far too savvy to elect someone like Palin.