Either I or Bowers suffers from a lack of imagination. Granted, neither Romney nor Huckabee stands much of a chance of landing the Republican nomination: Romney because, despite being well-positioned in nearly every other respect, he’ll never be able to put enough distance between ObamaCare and RomneyCare in Massachusetts; Huckabee because he was the proto-Palin of the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.“Anyone who can draw 10,000 people to a rally in Minnesota--in early 2010, no less-- is formidable.
In the specific case of Sarah Palin, it makes her virtually unstoppable.
“National polling for the Republican nomination has consistently shown Palin in a roughly three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. However:
1. Huckabee is unlikely to run, and his evangelical / born again base (virtually all Huckabee voters in 2008 were evangelicals) is a lot closer to Sarah Palin than they are to Mitt Romney. So, Palin will likely start ahead in national polls among declared candidates.
2. Romney's strength in 2008 was in caucuses, which are dominated by dedicated activists. Of the 11 states that Romney won in 2008, three were "home" states (MA, where he was Governor; MI where his father was Governor; and UT for religion), and the other eight were all caucuses. However, Romney isn't going to win many caucuses if he is facing a candidate who can draw 10,000 people to a rally in early 2010, not to mention what is likely a tarnished reputation among Republican activists after the health care fight.
3. Palin's grassroots strength will provide her with all the funding she needs, and also goes a long way to pre-empting any possible insurgent candidacy against her. This will especially be the case if Ron Paul runs again, since Paul can't win the nomination but would soak up pretty much all of the remaining grassroots energy on the Republican side.
4. Say what you will about Palin's ability as a campaigner, but if gaffes were going to make her unpopular among Republicans, it would have happened already.
“If Sarah Palin runs for President in 2012, I have a difficult time imagining someone else winning the Republican nomination.”
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Palin isn’t stupid, and that Republican Party isn’t suicidal.
Palin either wants to be President or she doesn’t. If she does, she’s smart enough to figure out that, given her unfavorable ratings inside and outside the Republican Party and the lack of enthusiasm she generates within the Republican establishment, 2012 is not the year to seek the nomination, at least with the intention of winning it. What’s more, the opportunity costs of running seriously in the next election cycle are enormous. Running and losing would surely end any foreseeable chance she has of being the heartland’s Oprah and of wielding real power within the Republican Party somewhere down the road. She’s sensible enough to know that the fact that 10,000 people show up to see you in Minneapolis doesn’t mean that all or even most of them want you to be their president.
In any case, the Republican Party isn’t crazy enough to nominate her. This is the party that preferred McCain to more doctrinaire conservatives like Romney, Thompson and Huckabee the last time around, and nominated George W. Bush as a “compassionate conservative” to take the edge of Gingrich conservativism in 2000. I can’t believe that the Republican establishment suddenly lacks the means and the good sense not to walk off a political cliff in an election in which Independents are up for grabs.
As far as I can see, Bowers is assuming that Palin is stupid and that the Republican establishment has lost the power and the will to disappoint the more wild-eyed Tea Partiers. He could be right on both counts, but it’s hard to think of two more convenient assumptions for Democrats who are prone to wishful thinking.