The political universe is atwitter at the latest sign that Sarah Palin may run for president. Politico and others have reported on her bus stop tour and a promotional documentary soon to be released. This comes on the heels of unconfirmed reports that she has bought or is buying a home in Arizona.
There are several questions here. The first is will she run. The second is how well would she positioned in the GOP field as it is currently shaping up. And the third of course is could she realistically take on Barack Obama in a general election.
The bus tour all but says “I’m in,” although I don’t think it’s a lock. It’s possible she’s leaning that way but not yet made a final decision, and wants to keep her options open. This keeps her in the game, and possibly keeps others – like Michelle Bachmann – out. You can do a lot on a bus tour besides run for president: make endorsements, spotlight issues, raise money, sell books, and generally pump up your reputation. It’s also a great way to test the waters and make a splash, without actually jumping in. Still, common sense says this means she is more likely to be running.
Governor Palin would be an instant front-runner – which is not to say the front-runner. I think that would still have to go to Mitt Romney. But clearly she would be in select company with Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman if she gets in. She’s already way ahead of the latter two in name ID, and will be for some time. She would definitely fill a perceived void in the primary right now, that of a grassroots, cultural conservative. She can no doubt speak to important constituencies in the Republican primary, especially in some of the early state contests. Without discussing this at length, it’s safe to say that yes, Palin is well-positioned to shake things up and do well in a GOP primary.
How well she does may depend on the degree to which the other candidates can convince the base that one of them is more electable in a general. That shouldn’t be hard to do, although the task will be complicated because you don’t want to alienate her fans. All the good folks out there who really like Sarah Palin.
That of course points to her political problem. She’s easy to like if you are like her, or if you happen to relate to or admire her personality. She’s also made progress in the last couple years in the way she carries herself on screen. I think the Fox gig has helped her with that. But fundamentally, she tends to see America as red or blue, with her own idea of the shade of each color. That is at lesat the impression that she can sometimes give.
Like any aspiring politician, she’s got to be able to talk to a variety of people in a way they can understand and appreciate. That doesn’t mean she has to compromise her values, but she’s got to consider the issues that are important to others, and offer ideas and solutions in a way that reflect empathy. The sooner she starts doing that the better. For the time being, I like Romney, although of course I’ll be giving Pawlenty and Huntsman a look.