In spite of being the brunt of virtually late night comedian’s monologues and the nemesis of a legion of Democrat pundits across the nation, half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s critics must now admit that she is a force with which they must contend. Even her Republican critics are astounded today by Palin’s performance over the course of this year’s midterm primaries.
In Alaska, where many have speculated that the former Republican veep nominee has lost clout because of her early departure from the state governorship, Palin’s Tea Party backed dark-horse candidate, Joe Miller, leads Republican Senate incumbent Lisa Murkowski, in a race still too close to call.
While polls showed Miller between 15 and 20 percentage points behind Murkowski throughout the primary, the race turned out a squeaker, with Miller leading by 2,000 votes and less than 15,000 yet to count. Even a loss for Miller translates to a huge moral victory for Palin, who has become a Tea Party firebrand since Barack Obama took office in January 2009.
Whether one agrees with Palin’s political views or not, the former governor has in the less than two short years since she took to the national stage, had astounding success. In the face of sometimes abysmal polls several disastrous television interviews, and embarrassing family scandals, Palin has managed to amass a small fortune while surviving venomous attacks by her detractors on the Left. She is still perceived by many, even on the right, as dull and uninformed on foreign and domestic policies, yet when she speaks virtually everyone listens.
When one compares the Governor to former Vice President Dan Quayle, the similarities of the Left’s marginalizing attempts are nearly identical. Quayle suffered enormous embarrassment for his grade school faux pas in the late 1980s, when he misspelled potato, and even more humiliation on his failed presidential bid in 1999, when he failed to gather steam.
Any reasonable annalist would say that Palin’s disastrous interviews, first with ABC’s Charlie Gibson followed by an even worse showing with Katie Couric at CBS during the 2008 presidential campaign, should have buried her political fortunes. Yet, while Quayle is at best a well respected but no longer viable politico in right-wing circles, Palin has an entire movement locked, loaded and awaiting marching orders.
An incredible 20 of the 30 candidates Palin has endorsed during the 2010 primary season have won their individual races and many of those candidates are leading their Democratic opponents in the fall. Sharon Angle, who is opposing powerful Senate majority leader Harry Reid in Nevada, is running neck and neck with the Senator, despite being outspent nearly 2 to 1. In South Carolina, both of Palin’s endorsements, gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley and congressional candidate Tim Scott, won their June primaries handily. In Arizona, while Senator John McCain was expected to win over his opponent J.D Hayworth, Palin’s tap turned the contest into a rout for McCain.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last month suggested that a candidate endorsement by Palin holds more sway than one by Barack Obama. Other candidates who have won on Palin endorsements are California’s Carly Fiorina (Barbara Boxer’s opponent), Florida Attorney General candidate, Pam Bondi, and House candidate Allen West.
In light of polls that show Palin a weak contender, for a presidential bid in 2012 against Barack Obama, strategists on both the Left and the Right are hanging on the edges of their seats in anticipation of an announcement. Will Palin run? One thing is certain: progressive bloggers and pundits are out in force to chip away at the Governor’s soft spots in hopes of preventing such a move.
The problem is that so far nothing has worked in the Left’s campaign to stifle Sarah Palin. Her base is firm, which means that she has nowhere to go but the undecided independents and former Reagan Democrats to gain enough support for a serious run.