January 11, 2010

Palin sly as a Fox?

The New York Times is reporting that Sarah Palin has accepted a role as a Fox News analyst. Sly? Well, maybe or maybe not. It depends on what she's planning as the step after that. And only Sarah Palin knows that answer.

 Sarah Palin has done an excellent job of two things since her resignation as Governor of Alaska. (1) Slowly repairing her personal approval ratings, helped in large part by her book tour and a book that the best the left could come up with to skewer her over was a jovial jab or two from Captain Kirk, which Palin was able to respond to in kind. (2) Effectively dissect the health care debate and other issues (energy) through effective use of her Facebook page.

The former repair effort, is somewhat in line with a typical politician's efforts to foster a positive public image. Book tours, speaking engagements and chats with friendly media (at least less unfriendly, Oprah) all help longer term public perception. She's been able to overcome a large chunk of the unfair negative publicity she received as a VP candidate with John McCain.

The latter, her Facebook page, is an outside the box approach to marshaling public opinion and she's done a relatively masterful job in the relatively new medium. It's an unorthodox approach to politics, not unlike say the Obama campaign of 2008, which was clearly an effective new style of campaigning.

Is she in a better political position to day than she was during the 2008 campaign or immediately after her resignation as governor? Most certainly. Is she ready to run for President in 2012? I couldn't say objectively at this point either way. I doubt anyone could reasonably well.

However, a few key points seem relatively clear to me.
  • Having mastered Facebook, there are two benefits to moving to Fox News. (1) She's not standing still.  Standing still in politics is an invitation to death. (2) Having found the setting of a web based monologue a successful megaphone, moving to the medium of TV, in a similar monologue type communication, is a logical next step.  It's the same idea with a bigger audience, more exposure, and more opportunity to build on her growing credibility.  I guess as a third it might give her an opportunity to practice debating for a while, prior to any further runs at office.
  • Unfortunately there's a downside to it as well. (1) Any mistakes become that much more visible.  And make no mistake, critics will be looking for any infinitesimal mistake she makes. (2)  It seems a little less plausible as an outside-the-box political move because (a) Mike Huckabee has been there, done that already and (b) with the experience factor clearly hampering President Obama, the public might demand more experience in 2012.  The role of news analyst, with all apologies to the likes of Glenn Beck, is not going to give her more executive experience.  Then again, with the throw them out mentality of the Tea Parties, maybe it helps her retain that outsider feel.
  • A failed role due to bad ratings (which are unlikely at first but could become an issue if she's not exciting as an analyst), are other possible area that critics could jump all over.
There's possible gain and there's also risk.  Whether this is a good move or not depends on a number of things. It depends primarily though on where she plans to go and how the timing jibes with the mood of the country.  Is she planning on a 2012 run?  If she is, her window at Fox can't go much beyond the end of 2010.  The logistics of starting a 2012 run for the Presidency is a two year full time job.  If that's the case, the Fox stint will be short indeed.  Critics will call her on it.  she has to bank on being able to say she's encouraged and spurred to action by the GOP victories in November 2010 to make that argument disappear.
On the other hand, she may be playing the slow grinding ground game, setting herself up for 2016 or 2020.  That may put her in a better position to do more in the interim and better establish her credibility.  But there could be a resurgent Bobby Jindal to contend with.  The iron is hot this year for conservatives.  She may be missing a golden opportunity by delaying.  Then again, maybe she sees it as too soon for herself.  Only Sarah Palin knows what's next for her at this point.  Like many others, I'm anxious to find out.

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