Friday, February 25, 2011

Palin Watching Is Hard

Mike Allen thinks the Sage of Wasilla isn't running for president:
BIG SIGN SARAH PALIN ISN’T RUNNING: Neither she, nor anyone on her behalf, is courting top donors, early-state activists or experienced operatives – all of whom are getting locked down, day by day.
That's an important piece of news. The things that Allen is talking about here are serious parts of the nomination contest. This isn't fluff.

However, with Sarah Palin, it's important to be careful interpreting tea leaves. Here's the thing: what we've known about Palin from Day 1, ever since John McCain selected her as his running mate, is that she doesn't believe that the normal rules of politics apply to her. Since she's wrong about that, she wound up highly unpopular with the bulk of the electorate, but as far as anyone can tell it hasn't shaken her conviction that she can set her own terms.

What that means is that we can observe whether Palin is doing the kinds of things a candidate would have to do to win the Republican nomination for president, we can only guess about what she really intends to run or not -- because it's quite likely she might enter primaries and caucuses without doing those things. And because she does have a relatively large and loyal following, she would certainly make a lot of noise if she did enter. Even if, as increasingly seems to be the case, she would have little chance to actually win.

I'm not saying that she's going to be running by fall 2011...just that the only way to know is to get inside her head, and none of us are in a position to do that.


  1. Sarah Palin doesn't need to run. Everyone spends so much goddamned time trying to divine what she's going to do, the media insiders are so addicted to her every wink and Tweet and Facebook post, why actually go to the trouble of launching a campaign? That's work and clearly she doesn't need to do anything but have one of her staff ghost-Tweet something stupid and the entire beltway media establishment trips over themselves to write about it.

    Cripes it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I'm trying to imagine a comparable scenario on the left of someone so wholly unqualified and unserious who has captivated the media's attention in this way.

    It really turns my stomach.

  2. Yeah, the Politico report tells us exactly nothing about what Palin is planning to do. Did anyone ever expect her to spend a lot of time and energy courting "early-state activists"?

    It does serve as an indication, though, that her already slim chances of getting the nomination are dwindling fast. I doubt anyone will ever win an election by campaigning solely on Facebook and Fox News.

  3. Southern Beale: Following on Jonathan's point though, the legal minimum required to "run for President" is fairly small. Fill out some paperwork, get some signatures; it is a lot of paperwork but Palin has people who could do that sort of shit for her.

    Most of the work of "actually launching a campaign" is that which people feel they need to do to get votes.

  4. "I'm not saying that she's going to be running by fall 2011...just that the only way to know is to get inside her head"
    That assumes that Palin already knows whether she'll run or not, which I think is unlikely. I think you could make better predictions without trying to get into her head at all by just looking at how she's acted in the past: IIRC she tried to avoid endorsing losing candidates, meaning she's embarrassment-adverse. She hasn't gone out of her way to have a platform (indeed, she's blown platforms off) and she doesn't like scrutiny from the media. I'd be surprised if she ran.

  5. "That's an important piece of news. The things that Allen is talking about here are serious parts of the nomination contest. This isn't fluff."

    In other words, it's important because you said so. C'mon John, you use this argument way too much. You say it's important to court big donors when it's pretty clear she'll be at the top or near the top in terms of fundraising.

    I'd argue that activists and operates are even less important than fundraising. Activists and operatives tend to be incredibly different from the "regular Republican" voter in the way they react to news and events. The reason is that activists and operatives are disproportionately represented by demographic groups that aren't the strongest part of Palin's base. Activists and operatives are disproportionately college-educated, upper-income, and male.

    The only thing that matters for her is whether Mike Huckabee runs. As long as she remains the second choice of 40-50% of his supporters, it's tought to see her not winning.

  6. I recognize that some like Anonymous enjoy pushing stale narratives but the one about Palin trying to avoid press scrutiny is a little difficult to support when you consider she sat down for an interview with noted right-wing black Democrat and Obama supporter Robin Roberts from the right-wing ABC News. She also just took questions from a right-wing group that just happened to have a pro-choice, pro-gun control Democrat in right-wing Long Island ask her questions for over an hour over any topic of his choosing with the cameras rolling.

    In case you missed my sarcasm, the point is she does engage people outside of Fox News and conservative media. Why else would she let the cameras roll at an event in a swing area like Long Island for a centrist organization while taking questions from a pro-choice, pro-gun control Democrat when Bill Clinton and others who have spoken at the same event did not want cameras rolling?

    Look, I recognize that people enjoy pushing narratives against political opponents. But I expect better from people who claim to be somewhat neutral like Bernstein. Go ahead and try to claim that Robin Roberts is a right-winger or that the organization she spoke to in Long Island is a Koch Brothers enterprise.

  7. First: I was the anonymous you're replying to, and as far as I can tell I'm not Jonathan Bernstein, so don't blame him for my (supposed) errors. Second, a single appearance is a molehill, not a mountain. You can use sarcasm to try to inflate it but anyone reading this blog will be able to see through that spin in a heartbeat.

  8. Anon 2:49,

    It's not important because I say so; it's important because that's what the research shows is important.

    In fact, I think that you can see the effects of elite disapproval of Palin happening right now -- while a lot of GOP opinion leaders are still reluctant to criticize her, some have, and others are either keeping their mouths shut or give mixed signals (such as: she's great, but she shouldn't run this time). That explains her (relatively) high disapproval among rank-and-file Republicans.


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