12 June, 2011

A Point About Palin’s Potential Presidential Prospects

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time. Larry Sabato pushed me over the edge. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Sabato. He is the guru of election prognostication. But there’s been a common meme appearing about former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) lately, and I’ve always felt it’s nonsensical. Sabato repeated it in his last column, and it didn’t sound any better even coming from him.

Ultimately, we don’t believe she’s running for two reasons. She has more influence and a far higher income outside of elective politics than in it.

I’ll address the latter first, because it’s the easiest to destroy. The problem with that statement is that it’s essentially true for just about every single person in the field. You think former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) can’t make more money outside of politics? Former CEO Herman Cain (R-GP)? Ridiculous. But this point is continuously brought up about Palin and only Palin. When I see this as a criticism, I know the analysis is unserious.

Now, regarding influence. This part of the statement also does not stand up under any serious scrutiny. Let’s look at some scenarios.

  1. She runs, wins GOP nomination and takes out President Barack Obama (D-USA) in 2012. You think she’ll have less influence from the White House? You’ve got to be kidding me. So, first, this narrative about how much influence she’ll have presupposes that she’ll lose. Again, no other speculation about other potential candidates presupposes that they’ll lose.
  2. She runs, wins GOP nomination and loses to Obama in 2012. Ok, here she’ll take a hit in influence, especially as there will be some that will say “if we’d nominated Romney, he would have won”. But it probably won’t be too much of a hit, as she will still be the de facto voice of the GOP for the next four years, by virtue of winning the GOP nomination. And she’ll still be able to attack Obama, and will likely still be the loudest voice for conservative principles. Certainly losing the White House bid in 2000 has done little to reduce former Vice President Al Gore’s (D-USA) influence within his party.
  3. Someone else wins the GOP nomination and defeats Obama in 2012. Here her influence will certainly drop, but it will do so regardless of whether she runs or not. There will be a Republican in the White House. S/He will be the voice of the party. Also, she does best attacking the opposition. Can you imagine the Facebook posts, “I support President Z on Y”? Zzzzz. Occasionally, she’ll disagree and toss out another zinger, but those will be few and far between. So, yes, she’ll lose a ton of influence here, but again, as I said, the influence lost is because there’s a Republican in the White House, and would be lost whether she runs or not.
  4. Someone else wins the GOP nomination and loses to Obama in 2012. I’m not sure how this one plays out. She would not be the de facto voice of the opposition, but she hasn’t been for the last three years either. That would be Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and that hasn’t slowed her down any. I really don’t see much of an influence level change here either, and again, it doesn’t seem to matter whether she runs or not.

So, that’s all the possible scenarios. Which ones did she lose a lot of influence that she would not have lost by staying out of the race? Yeah. None of them.

Now perhaps Mr. Sabato is not thinking long term but is instead thinking short term? That might be it, as I’ve also heard that Palin is better suited to being a kingmaker right now.

Well, she can certainly be a kingmaker. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, one would have to say that at this point, the three most sought after endorsements will be Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, and Mike Huckabee. The three of them together have appeal strengths that map to pretty much the entire GOP base. However, will her endorsement mean any less if she enters the race, than if she stays out? The only way that her endorsement becomes relatively meaningless upon entering the race is if she blows up and is a total dud in the primaries. Of course, that would mean that she doesn’t really have any influence now, either. So, again, this argument doesn’t hold water.

Now, I believe she’s running. But, there certainly are reasons to speculate otherwise. It’s true that she hasn’t done much of the standard political moves necessary to start a national campaign. Frankly, that’s the biggest reason to speculate that she isn’t, not the junk analysis at the top of this post.

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