Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sarah Palin vs Republican Elites: Advantage Palin

America is soon going to find out if Sarah Palin still matters. After more than four months out of the limelight, Palin is embarking on a historical tour of the Northeast.

The first stop will be at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally. Palin will then travel up the East Coast in a trip that will include her first stop in New Hampshire since running as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008.

Palin will also be stopping at other spots of symbolic national significance on the East Coast, including the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

For Palin's sake, I hope she knows the Revolution better than Michele Bachmann, the Constitution better than Herman Cain, and the Civil War better than your average Confederate re-enactor. If Palin celebrates the Confederacy during her visits to Civil War sites and ignores the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who gave their lives to defend the union and emancipate the slaves, she'll have hell to pay.

But the main question is whether Palin's re-emergence matters for the Republican presidential nomination. Steve Kornacki of Salon thinks that GOP elites have squelched any expectation of a Palin victory.

. . . an unofficial "stop Palin" campaign was launched by opinion-shaping GOP "elites" in the months after the midterm. Conservatives with credibility with the GOP rank-and-file -- including Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Breitbart and even Bill Kristol . . . -- began delivering the message in subtle and not-so-subtle ways: Let's find someone else . . . As a result of all of this, Palin will enter the GOP race -- if she does decide to run -- as a marginalized figure. She has plenty of fans among the party's grass roots, universal name recognition, and probably the ability to raise some serious money in small donations. But the most influential voices on the right are almost universally opposed to her now, and are committed to communicating this to the rank-and-file.
Kornacki goes on to say that GOP elites have "this one under control."

But nothing's farther from the case.

Sure, elite figures like Krauthammer, George Will, and Ann Coulter pushed Palin's poll numbers down from the low 20's into the teens and that Palin became radioactive after her "blood libel" comments on the Tucson shootings.

But Palin has basically played Republican elites to a draw.

After the "blood libel" fiasco, Palin did the smart thing and lowered her public profile. Outside supporting Scott Walker in Wisconsin and a brain-dead tweet about the bin Laden hit, Palin stayed so far out of public view that everyone started thinking that she no longer wanted to run.

Meanwhile, Republican elites were embarrassing themselves with their feckless search for the "Great White Alternative" to Romney and Palin. It's important to emphasize that Republican elites don't like Mitt Romney any more than they like Sarah Palin and Romney's numbers have been pushed down by all the carping about his work on health care in Massachusetts.

But the elite search for an alternative to Romney and Palin has been a complete debacle. Not only did John Thune, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, and Mitch Daniels have no chance of winning the nomination, they all had even less chance of beating Obama than Romney and Palin. It's been so bad that people like Rich Lowry of the National Review are ready to throw up their hands and start shouting "No Mas! No Mas!" before the first primary vote is cast.

And it's getting worse. Now people like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are mooning over the currently toxic Paul Ryan and the obnoxious to the nth degree Chris Christie. The Jewish Cantor has as much hope to be raptured as he has of Paul Ryan winning the nomination.

So, where does the Republican field stand now? With the withdrawal of Mike Huckabee, the first tier is now Romney and Palin, but their numbers have been beaten down to 17% and 15% over the last six months. Romney has more money, organization, and self-discipline; Palin has more campaign charisma, a more ferocious approach to attacking Obama, and the prospect of uniting social conservatives and the Tea Party behind her. If Romney wasn't so vulnerable to negative advertising on health care and abortion, he would have the edge. But the Tea Party faction has made it clear that the GOP primaries are going to feature brutal attacks on Romney's "RINO" record.

Advantage Palin.

That is, unless another joke candidate like Donald Trump surgest to the front by making the most extravagantly stupid claims about Obama.

That's how little control Republican elites actually have.

No comments: