Monday, May 17, 2010

Handicapping Palin

And not in the Jeff Gilooly sense, either.

It does seem to be one of the big political questions out there. Will Sarah Palin run for President in 2012? Political pundits are divided; some see her as a serious, transformative candidate (her boosters imagine her as a populist revolutionary, her detractors as a willfully ignorant demagogue) while others believe her to be a slick-talking huckster who's left politics for the far more lucrative profession of entertainer/pundit. The key moment that will tell who's right is 2012. If she makes a serious bid for the Presidency, then she clearly hasn't given up her political ambitions. If she sits it out, she's another Glenn Beck. (Which would be two more Glenn Becks than we actually need.)

My feelings? I think that on the one hand, it's pretty clear that she likes being rich. (Hey, who doesn't?) She quit halfway through her only term of elected office in order to cash in on her celebrity status, something that she had to know might come back to haunt her later on. (More on this...) And notably, running a political campaign is not something that makes money, it costs money. Especially when she doesn't have the kind of fund-raising apparatus and insider connections needed to raise the big donations, the way Dubya did. If she runs, she's going to be hemorrhaging cash, something that she's been very averse to doing, and she won't get any potential payoff until 2016 at the earliest. Unless, of course, she becomes the first President to quit after two years to do speaking tours...

On the other hand, a Presidential bid, even a failed one, boosts her credibility as a political pundit and gives her another fifteen minutes of fame. Her fanbase is demanding it, and they're a fickle group; failure to run could seriously tarnish her status as a populist revolutionary in their eyes, while failure to win can only increase it. ("Sarah's too much of a maverick to break through the Washington establishment! At least, that's what she's saying at her latest rally! Let's all buy tickets!") And it's easy to throw your hat into the ring, at least at first; you can always drop out when it starts getting expensive.

But most importantly, Sarah Palin has a lot of weaknesses as a politician that she has so far managed to conceal because they haven't been exposed to much scrutiny--Alaska has a small population, and she was hand-picked to run for Vice-President. A Presidential bid is going to expose those weaknesses. She will not be able to avoid unscripted interviews with tough media figures the way she has for much of her political career--George W. Bush pulled it off, but he had a lot of family connections to experienced political operators who could arrange that kind of strategy. Sarah Palin does not trust and is not trusted by those same campaign experts.

And that's also worth mentioning all by itself--Sarah Palin does not have a staff, and she doesn't want one. She is fast becoming notorious for being slapdash, organizationally speaking...something that works fine when you're just co-ordinating your speaking appearances and media engagements, but not so much when you're running for President. She doesn't have the kind of apparatus in place that you need for a serious political campaign, and more importantly, her experiences with that kind of apparatus in 2008 have left her very wary of putting them into place. She's going to try to go it alone, if she goes.

And that might not work very well, because the campaigning process (especially on a national stage) is brutal. She's not going to be able to conduct her Presidential bid through Facebook, speaking rallies, and appearances on Fox News. She's going to have to get in there and face off against other candidates who will be happy to use her weaknesses against her--remember that "quit halfway through her term as governor" thing? You can bet Mitt Romney will remind you, if you forget. And if Palin has shown a single defining character trait through her time in the political spotlight, it's that she's thin-skinned and holds grudges easily. (Or is that two traits?)

Put it all together and my guess is that you get something like this: Palin will make a Presidential bid in 2012, but it won't last long. She'll last through a few primaries, then drop out, citing a desire to protect her family from the vicious, unmotivated attacks that her opponents have unfairly leveled at them. Experts will cite the fact that she was running out of money and didn't do well in those first few primaries, but Palin will have already retreated back to the world of entertainment, where she can create her own reality. And make good money doing it, too.


Andrew McCarthy said...

This is *completely* unrelated, but since you're such a Star Wars geek, I thought you might like to know...

Did you hear that the first-draft script for The Empire Strikes Back has been leaked? And it's pretty wild. Vader and Anakin are two separate people; Luke meets Anakin's Force ghost while training to be a Jedi, and then goes off to fight Vader on Cloud City.

Also, Luke has a twin sister, but it's not Leia; it's a girl called "Nellith," who is mentioned but never seen, in a very obvious set-up for a future sequel.

Download it here:

(The site periodically has to shut itself down due to a massive influx of Star Wars fans trying to read it, so you may need to wait and try again later.)

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