Saturday, July 10, 2010


I understand why Andrew Sullivan is alarmed, but sorry, I don't agree that Sarah Palin is, as he puts it, unstoppable. Sully approvingly cites John Ellis's analysis, and I'll admit it has some truth to it:

...the Establishment GOP['s] ... view of Palin is that she's useful to the party because she can help keep "the Tea Party types inside the tent." And maybe she can serve coffee while she's at it. Palin's view is that (1) "the Tea Party types" are the party, (2) she is their standard bearer and (3) anyone who thinks "the Tea Party types" are there to lick envelopes and knock on doors should think again. They're there, she asserts, to take back their party and to take back their country.

Missing from what Ellis writes, and from what Sullivan clearly believes, is the fact that this is the view of just about everyone else who's likely to be in the 2012 field, with the possible exception of Mitt Romney. Also missing is the fact that there's nothing special or branded about "tea party" anger -- it's mostly just the same talk radio anger that's fueled the GOP for decades, and Sarah Palin hardly has a patent on it.

What's Bobby Jindal been up to lately, with his baiting of the president over the oil spill and his decision to sign into law a raft of resentnik bills, if not making a play for voters who are angry now (tea party angry, culture war angry) and will continue to feel that way in 2012? What was Mike Huckabee up to recently when he said he "was tea party" before there was a tea party? What's Pawlenty up to with his moves to the right? What's Gingrich up to when he's ratcheting his rhetoric up even more than usual (e.g., calling Obama perhaps our "most dangerous" president ever), all while engaging in more and more God-bothering?

I agree that Sarah Palin is far more popular than the rest of these guys (although Huckabee does quite well in most GOP polls). But what has to be kept in mind is that a whole bunch of people are going to be competing for Sarah Palin's vote, all of them making similar appeals. They may all fall short, but if they all pick away at her numbers (Huckabee because some primary voters prefer his piety to hers, Gingrich because he's seen as more experienced and "serious," maybe even Santorum as an additional Jesus-invoker, or Barbour as a real rather than honorary Southerner), then Mitt Romney might be the McCain of 2012 -- the guy who wins because he's a bit to the left of the extreme right, and he has that spot to himself. (Remember, there are still a handful of non-crazy people in the GOP voter base.)

Ellis says:

The fact is that the Republican Party of 2012 is not going to nominate a Mormon as its standard bearer.

Well, maybe -- but the Republican Party of 2008 didn't seem likely to pick a standard-bearer who was on record as favoring immigration reform and opposing torture, and that's precisely what happened, because of the way the field was split.

I'm not saying we shouldn't fear a Palin win. It's quite possible. (And if the economy is still horrible, I believe even Palin could beat Obama.) It's just not inevitable.


AND: Because I'm not sure I made it clear in what I wrote above, I want to emphasize the fact that Christian-conservative, culture-war feelings are going to play a big role in the GOP contest in 2012, as they always do. That's a problem for Romney, yes, but it's also a problem for Palin, who will probably be only the third most Jesus-oriented candidate if Huckabee and Santorum are both in the race. That's going to matter a lot.


And I haven't even mentioned Ron Paul, the Original Teabagger. If he runs, which front-runner will he hurt the most? Hint: It ain't Romney.

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