Sarah Palin gave a speech yesterday to a crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, that was small by tea party standards, small by recent Madison standards, and small by Sarah Palin 2008-2010 standards -- and would have been even smaller if you counted only the fanboys and fangirls:
The police estimated a crowd -- at its highest point -- of about 6,500 people, though it was uncertain how many of those were Tea Party supporters and how many were there to protest. Either way, the figure was far smaller than the tens of thousands of demonstrators that had been reported around the Capitol on several days in recent months.
And yet fanboy bloggers are seeing starbursts. Dan Riehl headlines his post "Sarah Palin Goes Where the Battle Is." (Actually, she went where the battle was, and will be -- she didn't have the guts to show up during the battle to pass that union-stripping bill, or in the days leading up to the recent judicial election, or perhaps Wisconsin Republicans had the good sense not to invite her; we'll see if she shows up as any recall votes approach.) And Big Government's John Nolte writes breathlessly,
If Sarah Palin's not running for president, what a terrible waste that would be of the single best stump speech I've heard since, well, Palin's '08 convention speech, which just happened to be the single most electrifying political moment of my adult life. A thrill didn't just run up my leg that night, it ran up everything in me that's American, and today in Madison, WI, it happened again.
Um, that's enough, John. We really don't want to hear the thrill specifics about your individual American parts.
Boys? Can I tell you something? It doesn't matter anymore. Maybe this is a sign that Hamlet Palin is actually going to announce a presidential run -- though it sure looks to me like the same behavior we've seen for a while now, that is, Palin swanning into wherever she can win a whole lot of glory, then swanning away again without ever really breaking a sweat. It's not like real campaigning.
But if she runs, what does it matter? We lefties can't seem to discredit the whole toxic waste dump that is the modern conservative movement, but Palin is certainly tainted goods -- she's barely registering in most polls of Republicans these days, and in general-election polls she reliably loses to Obama by landslide percentages.
It doesn't matter if this speech shows that she can still impress the base with her politics. We know she can't stop herself from doing the one thing that ruins her brand.
Do you know what's going to happen between now and the Iowa caucuses? Joe McGinniss is going to publish his (probably) tawdry, gossipy book about Palin. It's coming out on September 20. And why does this matter? Because Palin isn't going to be able to stop herself from obessing over it. She'll put up Facebook posts. She'll post tweets. She'll say snippy things on Fox and talk radio. At a time when the GOP base will be looking for someone who can take on Barack Obama, she'll be wasting her time attacking Joe McGinniss. Obsessively.
This is why even Republican voters have soured on her -- because, when she goes on the attack, she doesn't seem to be a surrogate for them anymore. Donald Trump, of all people, seems to have gotten very, very good at launching attacks that reflect what makes wingnut voters angry. Palin, by contrast, spends inordinate amounts of time on attacks concerning what makes her angry.
This is a massive Achilles' heel. If she can't control this tendency -- and I don't think she can -- it doesn't matter how many thrill-up-the-leg speeches she delivers, because she can't win the nomination.
And I'm really sorry about that, because she's the most beatable Republican in a general election, and I'd love to see her at the top of the ticket.