11 November 2010

Election reax - 3) Palin

It was delicious to see Sarah Palin's two most beloved candidates -- Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O'Donnell -- go down on election night.

If the 2010 midterms set the table for the 2012 primary, I'm not sure there was a bigger loser than Sarah Palin. It seemed that where she threw her weight around -- Alaska, Delaware and California with Carly Fiorina -- Palin's candidates lost. In Delaware especially, Palin's backing of O'Donnell over the much more moderate -- and critically, more experienced, respected and electable -- Mike Castle was a huge blow. For the most part, other 2012 contenders -- Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, most notably -- seemed to back more electable conservatives, e.g. Marco Rubio in Florida.

At the beginning of the year, we wrote here about what we believed Sarah Palin should do in order to establish herself as a serious presidential candidate. In short, we urged her to run against Lisa Murkowski, get back to the business of governing and re-establish herself as a serious political figure as Hillary Clinton did in 2000. We were nearly certain Palin could beat Murkowski in the Republican primary and cruise to a general election victory.

Instead, Palin has done the exact opposite. Since election night in 2008, she quit the Alaska governorship in the middle of her first term; engaged in outrageous rhetoric about "death panels"; became an "analyst" on Fox News; coined the term "lamestream media" and has refused any and all interviews outside of talk-radio hosts and her cushy cable news gig; wrote two books; shamelessly and repeatedly used her Down Syndrome son as a campaign prop; and asserted herself as the leading voice of the hysterical opposition.

It is now to the point where I can barely stand to hear Palin talk. She is so uninformed, so ignorant, so reactionary, so inauthentic and so cliche that it it's almost impossible to sit through even a snippet of a speech or interview.

Certainly, many in the GOP base admire Palin personally and respond well to her rhetoric opposing the Obama administration. This is not disputed. But there is a huge chasm between feeling those sentiments and supporting a Palin presidential run. Even the most partisan Republicans have a difficult time disputing the fact that she isn't fit for the presidency. In what is shaping up to be a very impressive field of candidates in 2012, I personally don't believe she stands a chance against the likes of Pawlenty, Romney, John Thune, and if he runs, Mitch Daniels. We explained here and here that Republican voters typically go for the safe, experienced play; are more concerned than Democrats about electability; and that the Republican establishment wants nothing to do with her.

Additionally, and perhaps equally as critically, the highest-profile candidates she backed in the 2010 midterms lost -- and in O'Donnell's case, lost badly. The losses sustained by Miller, O'Donnell, Ken Buck in Colorado and Sharron Angle in Nevada demonstrated to the GOP electorate the folly of electing candidates who don't appear senatorial or presidential. It showed the folly of Palin's line of "thinking," which ostensibly posits that the most culturally admirable "commonsense conservative" should be the nominee in every case, regardless of experience or electability. I'll continue to maintain that the tea party cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Everyone expected Palin to cash in on her popularity after the 2008 election. It's disappointing this is the road she's chosen. Her strategy and irresponsible rhetoric cost her party control of the Senate, and she should pay the price for it.

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