Thursday, January 13, 2011


It's generally conceded that Sarah Palin's speech was an abysmal failure yesterday, in sharp contrast to Barack Obama's. Politico's Jonathan Martin:

In the span of a single news cycle, Republicans got a jarring reminder of two forces that could prevent them from retaking the presidency next year.

At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest -- or capacity -- in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.

John Cole says:

Well, the two speeches had starkly different goals. Obama's speech was intended to heal the nation and bring us together. Palin's was to heal her reputation and to continue to divide the nation for her own political benefit. The speeches were completely accurate reflections of the character and aims of the respective orator.

And I'd add that they were completely accurate reflections of the character and aims of the orators' respective audiences. I still say that there's a disturbingly large percentage of America that vastly preferred Palin's speech to Obama's -- a group that includes not just Palinbots but a lot of other snarly right-wingers. Jonathan Bernstein says, of the kind of speech Obama delivered last night:

It's an easy speech because everyone watching wants the president to succeed.

But that's not true of quite a large percentage of Americans. They're movement conservatives. They hate the president and the Democrats. They think the president hates America and is a nation-destroying menace. They don't want the president to succeed. They don't want the nation healed, except on their terms (right-wing Republicans firmly in charge, Democrats and liberals thoroughly marginalized).

So I know that in the next few days the pundit class is going to ask whether Obama's response to Tucson will turn his presidency around the way Bill Clinton's response to the Oklahoma City bombing is said to have turned his around -- and I'm going to predict that that won't happen, apart from a short-lived uptick in the polls. Similarly, I'm going to predict that there won't be very much slippage in Sarah Palin's poll standing, or at least not much that will be detectable a month from now.


You know what makes me think that Sarah Palin isn't going to suffer much as a result of her seemingly disastrous speech? This:

NJ Governor Chris Christie surges in statewide poll

According to a statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind research center, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s job approval is now at 53 percent. According to the same poll, only 36 percent of New Jerseyans disapprove....

Christie spent the last year lashing out at everyone who looked at him crosswise, and even though he went AWOL during a Christmas Week blizzard, he's still popular. In fact, his numbers are going up:

...his approval rating [is] slightly better than the 49-39 percent the center saw when it polled on Christie's performance in November.

I know that Christie is criticizing Palin for refusing to engage the public and the press in an unscripted way -- but he's just a conventional general critiquing the tactics of an insurgent who attacks only from ambush. They both treat politics as war -- and his poll ratings show that a lot of people really, really like war.

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