April 6, 2009

Assessing GOP 2012 - Palin

This is the second in a series of analyses on GOP 2012 potential contenders for the Presidential nominee.

Other contenders evaluated:
Mike Huckabee
Bobby Jindal
Mark Sanford
Mitt Romney

Sarah Palin was John McCain's Vice-Presidential nominee in the 2008 election. She fired up the Republican base in a way that no other candidate in the primaries, including her running mate was able to do during the entire election cycle. It prompted a significant assault from the Mainstream Media against her. While the charges were politically motivated, were they unfair?

In many cases the details were deliberately distorted, in order to frighten the public away from an alternative charismatic figure to Obama. However, as conservatives we prefer to assess politicians on the merits of their opinions and stands on issues, and not top line impressions or what the press tells us to think.

Sarah Palin is currently continuing to serve as Governor of Alaska, with a very high popularity rating there.

Experience: Sarah Palin was a member of the Wasilla, Alaska city council from 1992 through 1996. She was chair the Alaska Oil and gas Conservation Commission from 2003 through 2004. In November 2006 she became the first female governor of Alaska as well as the youngest person elected to that post.

Palin's executive experience lends itself functionally and operationally to the Presidency.While the tenure of her executive experience at the Governor level is still in the two year range, she has four years of mayoral experience which has some commonality with respect to leadership. By 2012, Palin will have another 4 years of gubernatorial experience for a total of 10 years of executive leadership at some level, or at least 6 at a state level.

Grade: A- (although a slightly lower A- than Mike Huckabee, since his record boasts 10 years at gubernatorial level).

Likability/Electability: Palin's likability and electability presents a conundrum in the same way that Hillary Clinton did prior to 2008. Palin is a figure that truly energizes conservatives but is polarizing in a way that Democrats and liberals have vilified her to the point that how independents view here or are willing to view here is at best murky and at worst, the same as Democrats. Clearly the liberals fear her because they went to great lengths to portray her as out of touch, incompetent and plagued by personal problems. And the vilification did not end when President Obama won the election.

The mere fact that they are so concerned about her portrayal speaks volumes about her candidacy. She is a candidate who will thrill the conservative base. The challenge for Palin will be to effectively and demonstrably counter each and every criticism through visible examples of her work.

Grade: A-.

Foreign Affairs: Palin can see Russia from her house. Ouch. She never said that. But that's what's stuck, which speaks to the electability issue. While Palin, would likely stick to the traditional Republican world view, which is a plus, this is one area that in 2008 proved to be a weakness for Palin. Not because of her positions but because of the MSM portrayal of her as a neophyte in foreign affairs. Palin may have some sense of how to deal with Russia, but it will inevitably be overshadowed by the comment that from Alaska you can see Russia. It's not a bad comment per se, but it's not worth basing foreign policy on. Palin had best come up with some tangible Russian issues before 2012.

Yet despite that, Palin has been a supporter of Israel. Jewish radio host Tamar Yonah claimed on her blog that she noticed Sarah Palin wearing an Israeli flag pin during a videotaped interview. She also had been invited to speak at an anti-Iran rally in NYC, before she was uninvited when Hillary Clinton was withdrawn from the same event. And beyond that there isn't a lot of foreign policy track record or opinion record. Palin has worked effectively with Canadian officials on the TransCanada oil pipeline.

Grade: D- (rate this one as an incomplete, with a deadline of 2010 to get at least some results or solid opinions on the books and 2011 for a more substantial amount to be put into the public sphere).

Economy: During the 2008 campaign, drill baby drill was a solid refrain at Palin rallies. Dependence on foreign oil is something that she clearly wishes to overcome. From an economic perspective, it makes perfect sense to prioritize that.

In a more general sense during her interview with Charlie Gibson during the 2008 election, she prioritized 3 things.

(1) reduce taxes
(2) control government spending
(3) reforming oversight of government agencies to decrease wasteful spending

Despite the spin, she clearly opposed wasteful spending in Alaska and did oppose the Bridge to Nowhere. At least she's saying the right things;

What she has is a common sense approach to running things. What she's lacking is what Mike Huckabee is finding; some red meat economic quotables for mass consumption.

Grade: C+

Military: Sara Palin's son Track is in the military. So she has reason to be focused on this area. Some of her positions were to support a surge in Afghanistan, and that the surge in Iraq has worked. She supports a strong military, although no specifics have been given in terms of how she would materialize that support.

One area she did disagree with John McCain on was the issue of 'hot pursuit'.

A recent series of raids and missile strikes by U.S. Special Forces against Islamic militants in the lawless tribal areas along the Durand Line have strained U.S.-Pakistani troops to the breaking point. Pakistani paramilitary troops are even rumored to have shot at U.S. helicopters. And throwing more gas on the fire, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said she supported the controversial strikes, a view at odds with that of her running mate.


Democrats have largely defended Obama’s position on Pakistan, even as they seized upon the evident daylight between Palin and McCain on this issue. But interestingly, the Illinois senator’s embrace of “hot pursuit” puts him squarely in the same camp of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and Washington’s neoconservatives.

Palin clearly supports a strong military which is a plus for her. However, she needs to step up with more specific positions and proposals to define her support

Grade: C

National / Border Security: Sarah Palin views terrorism as the biggest threat to American security. She understands that energy is a key cornerstone to national security, and she views any country that supports terrorists as a threat to the United States. On border security, she supports a path to immigration but no amnesty for illegals. That's unfortunately somewhat vague in the sense that it does not prescribe a solution for current illegals and may represent a touch back amnesty like Huckabee. However, it's not explicitly stated. She did in 2006, tighten restrictions in Alaska on illegal aliens' drivers licenses.

As in other areas, Palin has some good positions but needs to clarify and solidify her positions with clear, and definitive statements on some topics. Her positions on national security and the evidence of her military support give her solid credentials to work from if she wishes to expound on her beliefs.

Grade: B+

Social Issues: Palin's the Earned Income Tax Credit helped move thousands of Alaskan welfare recipients into the work force. She opposes abortion on demand and supports the traditional definition of marriage. She at a minimum has no trouble signing a law that would allow a death penalty and supports it for those who murder children. She prefers individual liberty when it comes to decision making over government mandates - for example government changing the minimum required education age.

Grade: B+

Conservatism: Palin represents main street conservatism. As Ann Coulter stated,

Liberals were angry at Palin because they thought she should look and act like Kay Bailey Hutchinson: Upper crust, prissy and stiff.

Palin had a husband in the Steelworkers Union, a sister and brother-in-law who owned a gas station, and five attractive children -- one headed for Iraq, one a Down’s syndrome baby and one the cutest little girl anyone had ever seen.

In a nutshell, Palin was everything Democrats are always pretending to be, but never are.

That speaks volumes. Palin was more conservative than her running mate and more conservative than MikeHuckabee. Think of it as a common sense conservatism. If not worthy of the Presidency (which I'm not saying), at a minimum it's worthy of a position near the presidency. Her conservatism is not the Peggy Noonan blue blood out-of-touch conservatism but the type of conservatism that is refreshing and down to earth. Like everything else about her though, it needs more time for tempering.

Grade: A-

Overall: Palin is probably the most difficult potential nominee to gauge. Her likability and her ability to drive Democrats into apoplexy are excellent traits. Her common sense approach to things and her approachability are all key assets. She embodies core beliefs and energizes conservatives. But she does come across at times as needing some more years under her belt and some more definition around some of the vagaries that arose in 2008. In the same vein as Huckabee, it's still too early to tell.

Grade: B-. With a couple of years to round herself out, Palin has a good shot at 2012, but I believe she'd have a much better shot at 2016 with the extra time available to build herself a foundation of believes, a sound record and some potent political writings or speeches showcasing herself. 2012 is still viable and quite possibly it'll be her year. What remains unclear is the path she will chose and how long it will take to follow that path.

Of course I could be wrong. Please share your opinions in the comments section.


  1. I beg to differ with polarizing issue, and the issue of Gov. Palin's standing with independent voters. The last Rasmussen poll in late January found that those viewing her favorable had risen from 49 percent right after the election to 52 percent, with most of that gain coming from independent voters. You have to keep in mind that Alaska has the highest rate of voters registering as independent, 41 percent, and they overwhelmingly voted for Palin in 2006. There is a lot of real potential for her to grow her support among independents in the lower 48. Probably the biggest factors in the upward movement of her favorable numbers is a backlash against the media/DNC alliance in continuing to attack her long after the election, and the fact that she has spoken out against the out of control spending of the so-called stimulus, a growing concern both among republicans and independents alike.

    Several factors right now would put her ahead of all potential GOP rivals are:
    the fact that she can draw huge crowds. No where in US history has a VP candidate outdrawn the top of the ticket. Thousands, and in many cases, tens of thousands lined up and waited for hours to see her.

    Crowds equal votes, volunteers, and donations.

    Gov. Palin's PAC, SarahPAC, will be making its first FEC report in July covering the period of February (when it started taking donations) through June.

    With the end of the Alaska legislative session in mid-April, Gov. Palin will start appearing at events in the lower 48. She has received thousands of invitations, so she has the luxury of picking and choosing those that would be most favorable to her.

    You are correct that she must work on her foreign policy credentials. With lots of reading, and the right advisors, this will be easy enough for her to accomplish in the next few years.

  2. Greg,

    I agree that she has a rock solid base of conservative support, and can win the independents. The hurdle she faces is the PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) issue. Liberals detest her and will smear her 6 ways to Sunday to try to stop her momentum among independents. So part of her success is dependent on their ability to portray her badly, and her ability to counter that mis-portrayal. It will be contingent in large part on her honing her foreign policy acumen and credentials.

    I really like Palin, but I'm trying to see things (for all potential candidates) from an impartial perspective in order to guage what the GOP primaries and 2012 will hold. It's better to operate from a clear perspective than a best-case scenario -- it leaves you better prepared to fight.

  3. Forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    "[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

    Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Recovering Republican

    PS – And “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” Rush Limbaugh never made a bigger ass of himself than at CPAC where he told that blasphemous “joke” about himself and God.

  4. Hi Dean,

    My prediction is that from mid-April til the end of the year Palin will concentrate on making appearances around the lower 48, essentially shunning the GOP elite, except for maybe a fundraiser or two, favoring events such as the Right to Life and Down Syndrome events that are scheduled for next week. She'll appear before groups focused on women's health, children, families, taxes, small business, and energy. These events will be well attended, and receive a lot of favorable local media coverage, and then be spread through out the net, leading to increased donations to SarahPAC. This will increase her favorability among independent voters since she will not be seen as just a GOP hack. With the economy deteriorating, unemployment rising, and debt being piled on us, our children, and grandchildren, independent voters will start to wonder why the DNC and its lapdog media are spending so much time, energy, and money on attacking Palin. It will start wearing thin, and it has probably already started. By time the mid-term elections roll around Palin may very well be the financial powerhouse with an extremely well funded PAC. That will generate a lot of GOP hopefuls making the pilgimage to Alaska, asking for her blessing, and asking for money - political IOU's if she choses to run in 2012.

  5. Greg - that seems an entirely reasonable scenario.

    We all know the reason the MSM and Democrats are attacking her is because of their fear of her potential. If they really thought she was irrelevant or unelectable, they'd be boosting her chances until the time came to turn on her (like with McCain, it's the 'useful idiot' idea). Alternatively, they'd just be leaving her alone as a kook with no impact. But they continue to attack - it proves their fear.

    UNLESS...The scariest possible scenario is that they think she's a kook and have decided almost intelligently, that by attacking her they can build her up in the eyes of conservatives (reverse psychology), and will really ramp it up come 2011 or unload something they've been holding back. Of course that would imply a level of sophistication the MSM clearly does not possess. If they did they wouldn't be tanking and facing bankruptcies.


Disagreement is always welcome. Please remain civil. Vulgar or disrespectful comments towards anyone will be removed.

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