Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Attacking Palin (From the GOP)

I think Jonathan Chait is quite right that there's a bit of a collective action problem keeping Republican politicians who are afraid of having Sarah Palin as their presidential nominee from speaking up.

However, it's worth noting that this is probably a problem that will take care of itself over the next year or so.  Nothing will change for most Republican pols: they don't want Palin as at the top of the ticket, but they also don't want to risk attacking her and then facing angry primary voters.  But for those running for president, the situation is a bit different.  Right now, it makes little sense for them to attack -- Palin may wind up dropping out of the race before Iowa, or she may just fail to rally support above the 20% or so level she's at now.  If, however, she looks like a formidable candidate for the nomination by next fall (give or take a few months), then attacking her makes more and more sense.

Of course, these things are tricky in multicandidate primaries.  It's true that, say, Mitt Romney will want Tim Pawlenty to be the one to attack the Sage of Wasilla, while Pawlenty will want Mike Pence to do the dirty work.  Still, at some point, odds are that one or more candidate will find it in his self-interest to attack.  Who?  Either the candidate running second to Palin overall (better to risk falling to fifth than to accept finishing second, which is worthless), or a candidate who is doing fairly well and believes he stands to inherit Palin's voters.

Such calculations are tricky to make in advance, and as long as there's a good chance Palin won't be running or won't have a chance to win by January 2010 2012, the best bet is to wait.  Once those conditions change, expect the attacks to begin.  Collective action problems take hold when everyone would benefit more or less equally from some action.  If one or two Republican pols have a lot more to gain than everyone else from dinging Palin, the collective action problem could dissolve quickly.

(Date corrected above)


  1. >or won't have a chance to win by January 2010

    You mean 2012, right?

  2. There's always the alternative to open attack, which is insinuation.

  3. Yup -- thanks, and corrected.

    The problem with half-hearted attacks is that they're more likely to be noticed by her die-hard supporters than by fence-sitting Iowans.

  4. Doesn't her attack on Barbara Bush create a whole new group of Republicans with a personal incentive to badmouth Palin -- the cronies and underlings of the last two Republican presidents?

  5. >The problem with half-hearted attacks is that they're more likely to be noticed by her die-hard supporters than by fence-sitting Iowans.

    Sure, but it's possible to do it very subtly. I think of a particular moment in the 2008 vp debate. The Obama campaign had obviously made a strategic choice for Biden not to attack Palin at all. The entire time he didn't say a word against her despite several opportunities. Instead he hammered incessantly at McCain's agenda, and Palin, who obviously wasn't prepared for this, was unable to counter any of it. But when Biden tackled McCain's health care plan, he ended with the following statement:

    "So you're going to have to replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the 'Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.'"

    Now, for dedicated Fox viewers, who took for granted Palin's cock-and-bull story that she had rejected the Bridge to Nowhere project rather than being one of its main backers, Biden's remark hardly looks like an attack against Palin--at most, it comes off as a snarky criticism of McCain's policy proposal. But for anyone who remembers the media's exposure of this lie, Biden is not only reminding viewers that Palin has been less than honest but connecting it to McCain's plans, as a way of getting the point across that both candidates aren't as maverick as they claim.

    If I were advising Palin's Republican rivals, I'd tell them to take a look at the way Obama's 2008 campaign handled the situation, avoiding direct attacks but making occasional nudges in the direction of unflattering information about her that others have tackled.

  6. Palin won't run. The harsh criticism that would come from the other contenders would hurt the Sarah Palin brand, and she can't have that. Remember that she is in this thing for the money. Palin is coy about her presidentail intentions because it's good for the brand. When she sees that the brand might be damaged, she'll declare she's not running and assume the role of kingmaker. After the primaries, the nominee will distance himself/herself from Palin in order to court independent voters, while Sarah will rally the base.

    Governing and compaigning are too much work. Palin's future lies with the success of Sarah Palin Inc.

  7. There isn't much about today's politics that keeps me awake at night. I've become resigned to the inevitable deterioration of American society...and the upheavals, due to increasing scarcity of basic resources like oil and potable water, that will in about 30 years destroy much of Western civilization, and petty squabbling over peripheral issues like DADT (sorry, to those directly effected it is certainly not peripheral, and I am on their side) which in the longer run will matter little when many more people are fighting like hungry animals just to stay alive). By then I will likely be dead or beyond caring (I am 71 now) but I have a grand-daughter now 3 and I'm glad that her father is in very good shape and can prepare her for what life will be like when she is grown up.

    That said, there is one thing that scares me a lot: Sarah Palin as president with access to the nuiclear attack codes. While it is not likely, I think it entirely too possible that this ignorant, petty, and vindictive person could "push the button" because she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it. Presidents have less positive power than most think, and she doesn't think at all, she just connives at realizing her fantasies of power. If she were president just when Iran's nuclear capability comes on line, what might she do, to the cheers of both the Mad Hatter Tea Partiers and the 101st armchair brigade neo-cons?

    Back in 2002, I heard a hate-radio denizen (Jay Savarin in Boston) screaming that the best thing to do was to nuke Baghdad, so I don't think my fears are unduly paranoid.

  8. she is running.
    she is a mean grrl that got shut down for the wh prom.
    the TP/GOP will try to suppress palinism like it suppressed birtherism.
    if that doesnt work they will offer her the VP slot on Romneys ticket.
    if they don't.....third party run.
    she has to run now if she is ever going to....in 2016 she will be post-menopausal, the economy will be better, and her base (old white guys and fundie xtians) will be fewer while her anti-base (everyone else) more numerous.
    the reason she quit being gov wasnt the work-- she didnt do the work, and she thinks she doesnt have to do work in elected office.
    she quit because Krauthammer and Goldberg told her publically to go back to Alaska and read some books.
    likely other other republican elites told her the same thing privately.
    Like Bristol, she is going to give a big middle finger to everyone that thnks she shouldn't be there. She has SAID she can beat Obama. She believes she can, just like Bristol thought she she could win DwtS with no talent for dance.
    it is exactly the same.

  9. Noone excites the GOP base as does Palin. She will win the nomination.

    That was my prediction the night of the 2008 Convention mid-her-speech. Gets more likely every day. Second part of that prediction was that if the economy's still in the tank, she'll have a chance of winning vs. Obama. That also gets more likely every day.

    The clear GOP strategy is NO to every Obama move, except when he buckles under to their craziness. It worked fabulously for the 2010 elections. It'll work fabulously for 2012.

    The only way out of this trap is for Obama to go strong and partisan. But that's not in his nature.


  10. I agree with Anonymous...Sarah Palin, Inc. won't let her brand be tarnished.

    Palin will be invited by the 2012 Republican candidate for President to "endorse" s/he to move the conservative support she has to them. Her base would remain strong and I'd say she has potential for a more visible role with the RNC afterward to appease her fan base.

    Palin isn't a good choice for President but her brand is good fodder for the right choice.


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