The 2012 Republican field so far has not generated much enthusiasm, with voters rather dissatisfied with the options they have. The lack of excitement accorded to it is embodied by a recent CNN post about how the field is “historic” as no sitting senators are running on either side, something which hasn’t happened since 1944. If that’s as “historic” as it gets, then it’s no wonder that more and more candidates are not even bothering to run: GOP celebrities like Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Mitch Daniels (R-IN), Donald Trump (R-NY), Haley Barbour (R-MS), Jeb Bush (R-FL), and Chris Christie (R-NJ) have all chosen to skip 2012 for various reasons. Defeating a sitting president is never easy, and it’s hard to find candidates willing to ride a Republican ship that is likely to sink. But –hold that yawn– suddenly, it looks like all that may change.
Love or hate her, she knows how to generate enthusiasm and excitement like few others on either side of the spectrum. She has a polished, sleek brand, with high-quality web videos that actually go viral (her newest video, “One Nation”, released Friday, already has almost as many views as Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) “Believe in America”, which has been out for well over a month). With the possible Palin move to Arizona, it looks like she is serious about running. And for those who think her brand is fading, watch out for a new biopic coming out in June, “The Undefeated”, whose director, Stephen Bannon, predicts to “go off like an atomic bomb.” She was, incidentally, a governor with 80%+ approval who took on the oil companies and won – or, at least, that’s the story the movie plans to introduce to GOP voters who, surprisingly, don’t know nearly as much about her record as might be expected, considering she has been a fixture in American politics ever since she landed on the political stage in August 2008.
Sarah Palin may actually be the first ever major-party female candidate in 2012. Though she may have only served as governor for two and a half years, which might seem rather negligible in comparison to established Washington politicians such as Newt Gingrich (R-GA) or Ron Paul (R-TX), it is what she did in those two and a half years that she hopes will leave voters impressed and, well, rather surprised.
Criticized and caricatured ever since America got to know her, Sarah Palin has a long way to go in convincing Republicans – and the rest of America – that she has what it takes to be President. But one thing is clear – she definitely has what it takes to run. She demonstrated the size of crowds she could bring out in 2008, and she claims she has the “fire in [her] belly” to run in 2012. Her supporters on Conservatives4Palin note her as the only Republican with a consistently conservative stance on climate change and healthcare, and have pointed to sources such as the AP and the New York Times to express the vacuum a Palin candidacy would fill in a GOP primary. Indeed, the fact that she has such a powerful and motivated fan-base with an online presence in the form of Conservatives4Palin and Organize4Palin, both of which are willing to spring into action as soon as she says the word, is extraordinarily unusual for a GOP candidate who has not even begun officially “exploring” a candidacy. With no run from Mike Huckabee, which has freed up enough conservative and evangelical support to make a Palin run not only feasible, but winnable (according to Gallup, she is 2 points away from Romney, the current frontrunner) the time is opportune for Palin to take center stage and take Iowa.
And Palin is working on her image – her high-profile visit to India boosted her foreign policy credentials, and her future bus tour in New England seeks to reintroduce her to the Romney-Obama stronghold of the Northeast, improving her chances in New Hampshire so she can prove to voters that she is in it for the long run. But she still has many questions to answer. Why did she quit the governorship? Why did she falter in interviews during the 2008 campaign? What about her daughter’s child and its implications on Palin’s abstinence stance? Why did she need to go to multiple colleges to get her degree? Did she ban books, and hunt wolves from helicopters? How did her mayoral experience prepare her for the presidency?
As someone who has read both of Palin’s books, I know that she has legitimate answers to all these questions, but her task will be to give those answers to the American public in a way that will be clear to voters. But before Palin starts her run – if, indeed, that is what she decides to do – it may be prudent to begin to examine the case she might make to voters. Expect more here soon as we take a look at the Palin picture, answering the questions Palin opponents may have about her record in order to better understand her appeal.
Photo credit: Therealbs2002, October 2008, via Wikimedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SarahPalinElon.jpg.