When the 2010 midterm elections are over, as Sarah Palin surveys what will likely be a splendid victory for many of her endorsed candidates, she will have to look ahead to a new enemy whom she will have to defeat should she want to run for President.
That enemy, according to Politico, is the Republican Party establishment.
The stated reason for this opposition to Sarah Palin within the Republican establishment is that they do not think she can win a general election contest with President Barack Obama.
“Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee – an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy – have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.”
The real reason, of course, is not quite that simple. Palin is not the only Republican toying with the idea of running for president. There are a slew of office holders, former office holders, and others who think that the idea of living in the White House is very appealing. These include veterans of the 2008 election such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, conservative super stars such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and up-and-coming conservatives such as Jim DeMint and Eric Cantor.
Many of these candidates, with the possible exception of Gingrich, are considered “safer” than Palin because they are thought to be less polarizing, less prone to take alarming positions on the issues, and less hated by the political left. More importantly, many Republican insiders will support and work for these other candidates. A Sarah Palin nomination victory would spoil their career plans to work in a Romney or Pawlenty White House.
There are some polling data that would tend to support the theory that Palin cannot be elected President. “–an ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed 39 percent of registered voters view her favorably and only 27 percent believe she is qualified to be president.”
On the other hand, this statement, “Still, she has never faced serious criticism in public in a campaign setting,” seems lunacy. If anything, Sarah Palin has received the worst criticism that any political candidate has gotten since-well-Ronald Reagan.
Speaking of the Gipper, this antipathy that some Republican establishment types have toward Palin has some historical parallels. Reagan was a polarizing figure who was thought to take “extreme” positions, who some did not think was qualified to be President.
In his study of the Reagan 1980 campaign, “Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America,” Craig Shirley describes how the Republican establishment was terrified of the idea of a Reagan candidacy. They had concluded that Jimmy Carter, like Barack Obama an unpopular President, would easily beat Reagan because he was too extreme and too polarizing. They supported “safer” candidates like George H. W. Bush or Senator Howard Baker.
Reagan won the 1980 GOP nomination and went on to win the general election handily. In 1984, Reagan beat Democratic challenger Walter Mondale by one of the greatest landslides in history. Reagan went on to become a world historic figure, being credited with the destruction of the Soviet Union and the bringing forth of the American economy from the 1970s stagflation.
Is history repeating itself with Sarah Palin? It sure does look like it. A lot of the people who opposed Reagan in 1980 are now calling themselves “Reagan conservatives” and are pretending that they always liked the Gipper. Perhaps, in 2042, everyone in the Republican Party will be a “Palin conservative” and will look back with nostalgia and awe at a woman whom they are now afraid of.
Sources: Next for GOP leaders: Stopping Palin, Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, Politico, October 31st, 2010
Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America, Craig Shirley, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2009