Friday, July 16, 2010

Is Palin Exempt From the Rules?

Speaking of Dave Weigel, I think he misreads liberals and half-misreads the presidential nomination process in his reaction to this claim by Mark Halperin*:
[Palin's] candidacy would require almost none of the usual time sinks that force politicians to jump in early: power-broker schmoozing, schedule-intensive fundraising, competitive recruitment of experienced strategists, careful policy development. She would have immediate access to cash, with even small Internet donations likely bringing in millions. 
First, liberals.  Weigel says, "You read that if you're a liberal who cannot stand this woman (but clicks on every article about her), you wonder what the hell Halperin is talking about."  Really?  I don't think so; I think most liberals are perfectly happy to believe that Republicans would nominate Sarah Palin -- first, because they think she would be easy to beat, but more so because it would only confirm (to them) that Republicans are dolts. 

Second, the substance of Halperin's claim.  Weigel:
Halperin is right about Palin in the media that's going to actually cover the 2012 election. This media is not going to care about her policies. If policies come up during debates, and she gives the same answers she gives on Fox now, and Mitt Romney pounces on her, the story will not be that the GOP's frontrunner gave a pallid answer. The story will be that Mitt Romney pounced. What does this do to his image? What does Mike Huckabee have to say about it?
And so on. It's hard to imagine Palin competing at the policy level the press claims she needs to get to, but easy to imagine her competing at the level they actually play on. Quick, cast your mind back to the countless 2007/2008 Democratic debates. Do you remember Hillary's mastery of policy? No. You remember her fumbling an answer on drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants, you remember Obama telling her she was "likable enough," and perhaps you remember Dennis Kucinich talking about aliens.
As I said, I think this is half-right.  Yes, Palin will have little problem clearing the hurdle of debates, per se.  However, look back at the first thing that she'll supposedly be able to skip: "power-broker schmoozing."  No, I don't think so.  If she really runs as an insurgent against Republican Party power brokers, her campaign will be DOA.  She's not going to be able to get away with snubbing...let's see...local pols and party people; interest group leaders; conservative talk show hosts; conservative opinion leaders.  Right now, there's really no reason for any of those people to be critical of her or any other 2012 candidate, but once we move further into campaign mode next year, if she really snubbed them, then we'd start hearing more and more negative stories about her within the conservative media.  In fact, she almost certainly has to do better than just not snubbing them; she's going to have to convince most of them that she's no threat, and at least some of them that she's the best choice. 

Yes, I know, she's very popular with a core group of Republican primary voters right now.  It seems as if they're safely within her corner.  But, really, it's an illusion.  Just think of all those Democrats who were die-hard Hillary Clinton lovers throughout the 1990s and, well, up to winter 2007-2008 who wound up just bitterly against her if they happened to pick Obama (and have now returned to her camp post-election).  These attachments feel strong, but they're really not, except for a very, very small group.  It's very easy for any conservative to be a Palin supporter today; it's a lot different to be a Palin supporter against what Rush says, against what Beck says, against what the NRA and the Club For Growth say, against what organized activists say, if it should come to that.  I really don't see any evidence that she's any more immune to that effect than anybody else.  That's not to say that she can't be nominated, because I have no idea whether she can win the support of party leaders.  I am confident, however, that she can't win the nomination without them.  So the real question, and one for which Weigel should have some expertise, is: what do those folks want from their candidates?  Are they willing to support a candidate who doesn't know the issues?  Do they think they can trust her if she gets elected?  Those are the real hurdles she has to get over.

*I should mention, as long as I linked to the piece, that (1) a two-minute video cannot, in fact, reshuffle the Republican presidential race, and (2) Palin could not, in fact, decisively influence the outcome of the midterms.


  1. . . . against what Rush says, against what Beck says, against what the NRA and the Club For Growth say . . .

    Beck and Limbaugh opposed McCain in the 2008 primaries, and the Club for Growth was at least occasionally critical of him.

  2. I think most liberals are perfectly happy to believe that Republicans would nominate Sarah Palin -- first, because they think she would be easy to beat, but more so because it would only confirm (to them) that Republicans are dolts.

    Doubtless many liberals think that way, but I have no idea if 'most' do. But Halperin seems to be talking about the general election as well as the nomination.

  3. Palin will have little problem clearing the hurdle of debates, per se.

    I beg to differ. After intensive coaching Palin managed to get through one VP debate unscathed. But presidential primary debates are a grueling course, with lots of opportunities for Putin to rear his head under the umbrella of job creation. Does Weigel seriously mean to suggest that, while Hillary Clinton might screw up once, Palin is bound to be letter perfect?

  4. David,

    If conservative elites are split, as they were in 2008, that's one thing; if however they're mostly united for a candidate (or against a candidate), that's a big deal -- and one that Palin cannot ignore if she wants the nomination.

    As for debates, people see what they want to see (and what the media outlets they tune in to repeat). I'm not sure what Weigel things, but I don't think debates are a very difficult hurdle for a candidate with other things going for her. It's the other things I'm not sure about.

  5. Palin is pretty - that's why pundits like Weigel are so willing to give or say she will get a pass. She is pretty. I don't know why there is all this analyzing.

  6. David - "After intensive coaching Palin managed to get through one VP debate unscathed."

    That's only because Biden was absolutely paralyzed with fear that he might come across as sexist. It really was a puzzle - how do you debate a woman who is a complete lightweight and policy dolt, without running into a charge of condescension towards women?

    But in a primary for the presidency, I suspect Palin will run up against a number of people willing to take the gloves off, and I think there is a good chance one of them will be a woman.

  7. Nixon got 42% of the vote in 1968. Clinton got 43% of the vote in 1992. Palin got 46% of the vote in 2008. She can run in 2012 as the vice-presidential candidate. There is no evidence that the media will make things any harder for her than they did in 2008. If the voters in 2012 are looking for a change, like they were in 2008, Palin might very well be sworn in as Vice President in January, 2013.

  8. No one ever got poor by underestimating the intelligence of the general public. If Sarah Palin isn't the absolute, utter proof of that statement then nothing is.

  9. Though Palin was never a member of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), her husband apparently was - and she was nevertheless friendly with the group. The relevance of the AIP is not that they're secessionists (who cares, really?), but that they are virulently anti-establishment, specifically anti-corporate interests in the lower 48.

    As governor, Palin's primary "accomplishment" was socking the oil industry (corporate interests) with an excessive windfall profits tax, handing the money back to the good people of Alaksa in a historically-large transfer payment.

    I think this a largely underreported aspect of the Palin narrative: the average person loves her, but in relation to large institutional interests, she may be somewhat left of Dennis Kucinich.

    Those institutional interests haven't yet returned fire. But you have to figure they would before Election Day 2012 arrives, yes?

  10. "handing the money back to the good people of Alaksa in a historically-large transfer payment"

    ...Isn't that (gasp) socialism?

  11. ...Isn't that (gasp) socialism?

    Technically, no, I believe political theorists wouldn't call it "(gasp) socialism".

    More like "(big-smile-of-gratitude-from-the-polity,-80%-approval-rating-in-thanks) socialism".


  12. I don't understand your point -- why do you say that she has not done her schmoozing? She has ALREADY gotten Rush's support.

  13. Anon 7:43

    She has? I don't think so. Right now, Rush and the rest are going to say nice things about lots of GOP candidates. That's a lot different than actually endorsing one of them -- it's a lot different than choosing whether to play the candidate's favorite sound bite or the candidate's gaffe after the first GOP debate.

  14. Speaking of which, I wonder what Palin did to piss off Bill O'Reilly. He's challenged her and made her look bad in two interviews. I've never known him to do that to a conservative, but then it's been a long time since I watched his show regularly.

  15. I hold the media responsible for her rise to the top.
    Why are they NOT going after her? Why is it OK for the US to have a DOLT for POTUS or VP?

    Why are they not howling for her to come on network shows or radio besides Fox?

    I hope the US is not too stupid to elect this woman with the complicity of the press.

  16. Unless Sarah Palin actually manages to figure out a way to run an almost completely content-free campaign, then I think the relentless grind of a months-long primary season may ultimately grind her down. It's not really about "debates" per se. She could probably manage to stumble and bob and weave her way through a small handful of those without self-infliction of a fatal wound. It's more that a real candidate has to speak almost constantly, in a wide variety of forums, and much of it winds up to be largely unscripted. And the bottom line on Sister Sarah is that the more she talks, the worse she gets. She isn't just a "lightweight". She is phenomenally uninformed about the most basic workings of the world around her. And it shows - painfully so. A goofy tweet here and there; a clueless response to a softball question on Fox; a brainless speech about, oh, anything . . . none of these things are really going to stick to her for the time being. But when she is out on the camopaign trail, full-time, in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, and start speaking regularly and frequently, on tape, on a wide variety of issues, it is going to gradually dawn on people - even so-called conservatives - that this woman truly doesn't know what on earth she is talking about.

  17. From a Democratic Party perspective, Sarah Palin is all good.... Let's look at the possible scenarios:

    1) She puts herself in the race and flames out due to her ignorance and her demonstrated inability to handle adversity. Her supporters will probably blame whoever gets the Republican nod for her demise. Since her hard core supporters are the least informed troglodytes, they may lose interest in the race (particularly if the darling of the country club set, Romney is the nominee.)
    2) She somehow evades saying anything and gets the nomination, the race will undoubtedly be more difficult to evade saying anything of consequence and she will lose in a landslide due to her utter stupidity.
    3) If Obama is caught in bed with a 12 year old boy just before the election and she wins the Presidency, she will be impeached before her four years are over and the Republican Party will find it's true place in history along with the Whigs and the No-Nothing Party.

    Sarah Palin is a win-win for Democrats. Unfortunately it is a lose-lose for the country.


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