Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here's the Problem for Palin in a Nutshell

Insiders vs. Masses

The Political Insiders Poll that the National Journal has done is enlightening. The most interesting bit asks partisans to name the current governors within their parties with the brightest futures. Check out the poll link above for the full details, but for our purposes, allow me to focus solely on the Republican side. That's where the action is anyway.

Here's the list of those drawing support (based on this question) from 99 GOP insiders ranked from most to least:
No one

This isn't the greatest of news for Sarah Palin. Seven other current Republican governors top the former vice presidential candidate and the Alaska governor surpasses only the Governator and no one on the list not to mention the 13 other Republican governors. Still, out of 99 votes, Palin managed to garner only 5 votes. That's a pretty low number for a former vice presidential candidate.

...in the year immediately following the presidential election where said person was on the ticket.

But here's the rub: This poll was conducted among political insiders, not at the mass level where her support would be expected to be highest. Now, we could look at the Google Trends data where Palin is doing well relative to other potential candidates, but I don't know that the information we have there jibes well with the scant polling on 2012. Palin has actually polled quite low in those surveys which could suggest that the frequency of Google searches for her are propped up by the types of folks who like to gawk at car accidents -- accidents like the Levi Johnston dust-up.

This does have implications for the presidential primaries in 2012 if Palin decides to throw her hat in the ring. As we've mentioned here before, if anyone is likely buck party insiders in the primaries with support from the rank-and-file members of the GOP electorate, Sarah Palin is that candidate. The bad part for her though is that that sort of thing only rarely happens in Republican nomination races, but more often across the aisle. In other words, the elites are driving the results more in the GOP than among the Democrats. [Some may argue with that though.]

File this one away, though. If Palin enters the race, the tension between these two camps will decide how well she does.

Hat tip: Daily Kos

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Jack said...

Of course, Palin isn't exactly dominating among the masses either. In order to beat the establishment, you do need a lot of popular support, something she may not have enough of.

Robert said...

I wouldn't count out Sarah just yet. She has star-power quality, can raise crowds, command TV coverage and is not exactly bashful. She has better name recognition and much greater potential than a certain Democrat had in May, 2009, who was written off as a viable candidate (and he is now President!). I still think the nomination is Newt's if he is willing to fight for it (and this is probably his last chance), but I think Sarah and Mike will fight it out to be the primary challenger to Newt. Willard may put up another fight, but I don't expect him to do much.

Jack said...

I didn't mean to imply that Palin has no chance. I just don't think middle of the pack among Republicans in polling and bottom of the pack among establishment types is a winning combination.

It's wide open right now as none of the Republicans have really done anything to rise above the field. Of course they haven't; it's May 2009.

Josh Putnam said...

Palin's chances are on the wane, but again, she's the rare candidate that can reverse that relatively quickly. It's still very early and she has a reelection campaign to concern herself with before she can get to the presidential race. I'm not saying she's in any way endangered there, but that's still a hurdle she has to clear first.

Robert said...

Look at the list. Anyone who is a serious contender for the nomination must (1) have an articulate message that will come across in a series of debates that will begin in early 2007, (2) be able to raise large amounts of money, (3) be acceptable to the social conservatives (who may make up a majority of those who still call themselves Republicans), (4) have a compelling story and (5) have no trouble getting TV interviews. Jindal and Barbour may be able to satisfy 2 or 3 of those criteria, but Palin is the only one who scores on all five. I am not saying that she is inevitable, but she is far ahead of all others on the list. I believe that we underestimate the importance of being a VP candidate. In the last 13 Presidential elections 10 (2000,1996,1992,1988,1984,1976, 1972,1968,1964&1960) have featured a candidate from one of the major parties who was either a VP (Gore, Bush, Mondale, Ford, Nixon, Humphrey and Johnson) or VP candidate who lost (Dole). I contend that many of these candidates gained their core of support when they ran for VP and probably would not have become nominees without a non-democratic choice by the Presidential candidate. I believe that the campaigns as a VP-candidate did more for their Presidential campaign than their service as VP with the obvious exception of Ford and the possible exception of Gore.

Josh Putnam said...

That list of VPs who have lost and gone on to run successfully for a nomination is a short one. That doesn't bode well for Palin. Then again, no one on either list really measures up to the intangibles Palin brings to the table.

Greg said...

Another factor for a potential Palin run would be support from the RNC. Steele doesn't have much power left, but if he maintains any influence over the primary schedule, comments like this: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22750.html couldn't hurt Palin's chances.
Not to mention, Palin's support probably helps Steele a little.

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Greg.

On the primary calendar...
Iowa is still going to be first and I see that as good for Palin. But if Huckabee's in too, they could split that social conservative vote there. Also, Michael Steele's power over the calendar will depend on both the ability to lobby states to move to particular points on the calendar and the extent to which the Democrats go along with the alignment.

Let's look at the calendar I just posted today.

Iowa: Good except for the Huckabee factor.

New Hampshire: I don't see that as Palin country.

Nevada: This one is a maybe, but Romney will likely be going for a repeat win there. Plus if the caucuses fall on the same day as the South Carolina primary, no one will be paying attention. Sorry John Ensign.

South Carolina: Will the Palmetto state be rendered moot by Mark Sanford? Huckabee's likely to play well there too.

Florida: Closed primary, so the moderates/independents won't be a factor. Florida may actually be the state to decide the nomination if it stays where it is on the calendar. And I could see Palin doing well there potentially.

Then Super Tuesday.

If no candidate wins multiple times prior to Super Tuesday, the winner of Florida will have a ton of momentum heading in to all those contests. It would also be a free-for-all during and potentially after Super Tuesday. I'm not banking on a 2008 repeat in 2012 in the excitement department.

...and I'll be glad to be proven wrong on that.

Robert said...


I agree that Florida will probably decide the Republican nomination in 2012 as it did in 2008. I predict it will pit the Palin/ Huckabee survivor against Romney and Gingrich. If Florida is not conclusive look for Super Tuesday to decide the outcome.

I still think you are downgrading the platform that a selection as a VP running mate provides a candidate for further ambition. Does anyone sincerely believe that

-Nixon would have received the nominations in 1960 and 68 if Eisenhower had not chosen him?

-Johnson would have become President if Kennedy had chosen Symington?

-Mondale would have had the ambition to run for President without Carter's selection of him in 1976?

-GHW Bush would have made a successful run in 1988 if Reagan had selected someone else as his running mate in 1980?

-Dole would have built his base across the country from his campaigning in 1976 to launch his run in 1996?

-Gore would have the interest or support base if Clinton had chosen someone from outside the South to balance his ticket?

-we would even be considering Palin as a candidate in 2012 if McCain hadn't selected her?

The point is that selection as a running mate provides a candidate with exposure to a broader audience and the ability to attract cash and campaign workers that no other thing in American politics. Being a sitting VP is certainly not that much of a help unless the President dies, resigns or is impeached and convicted. Of the 44 Presidents to date only four (Adams I, van Buren, Nixon & Bush I) have been able to earn the position by their own election.

Josh Putnam said...

I can't argue with that. Being a VP nominee is one of the most successful springboards to the presidency, but the point I was trying to make was that the list of VP nominees who lost and subsequently turned around and ran for the presidential nomination successfully is pretty short.

In the post-reform era, it's Dole and that's it. And there were 20 years between his having lost as the VP nominee and winning the nomination.

Mondale doesn't count because he won before he lost as VP. The same is true of Dan Quayle, though he didn't become the presidential nominee. Let's look at the list of losing VP nominees:

2004: Edwards -- ran again in 2008 and lost

2000: Lieberman -- ran in 2004 and lost

1996: Kemp -- never ran for the nomination after that point

1992: Quayle -- ran in 2000 and lost

1988: Bentsen -- never ran for the nomination after that point

1984: Ferraro -- never ran for the nomination

1980: Mondale -- ran and won but after having been VP for a term before losing

1976: Dole -- ran in 1988 unsuccessfully before winning the nod in 1996

Again, I think Palin's chances are great relative to the storm she has weathered. Many other politicians would have hitched up their wagons and ridden off into the sunset under similar circumstances. But the track record for VP nominees on the losing side of a presidential election speaks for itself. There aren't a lot of presidents on that list much less nominees.

Robert said...

I agree. The other loser as VP who captured the Presidency was FDR, but that was a long time ago.

David said...

This is my list of 2012 candidates, in the order in which they presently stand:

1 - Mitt Romney
2 - Sarah Palin
3 - Mike Huckabee
4 - Newt Gingrich
5 - Bobby Jindal
6 - Haley Barbour
7 - Tim Pawlenty
8 - Mark Sanford

I'm pretty sure that Romney will most likely end up winning the nomination. I could see him replicating the 2008 Democratic caucuses when Obama finished 8 points ahead of Edwards and Clinton, who were essentially tied for second. In this case, Romney would probably finish ahead while Huckabee and Palin battle for second (because of the fact that they will most likely split the socially conservative vote, with Romney getting some too). I feel safe assuming that Gingrich will be a safe bet to place fourth in Iowa, given the likelihood that the Southern candidates (except for Huckabee) won't do too well in Iowa.

In New Hampshire, I can see a competitive race between Romney and Palin, with Gingrich finishing a respectable third. However, I think Romney will win here too (especially since he recently switched his voter registration from Massachusetts to New Hampshire). After a decent New Hampshire win, I believe that Romney will be unstoppable. However, I do think that Huckabee will dominate the South once again on Super Tuesday (IF he can manage to win Iowa - if not, then watch people like Barbour, Jindal and Sanford rise up and split the South).

Also, Huckabee will need to win Iowa in order to beat Sanford in South Carolina. If Huckabee falls short in Iowa, which I think is a good possibility, then he will have a difficult time winning anywhere else.

By the way, I have a strong hunch that Ensign won't bother running. He has a far better shot at gaining power in the Senate than he (or anyone, for that matter) has at beating President Obama.

So, here are my scenarios:

- I don't see Palin winning the nomination under any circumstances.

- Romney wins Iowa, Huckabee comes in second, Palin comes in third. Romney goes on to win New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida, while Sanford wins South Carolina - and outperforms the other Southerners on Super Tuesday. Given Romney's problem with conservatives because of his religion and his past record as a center-left Massachusetts politician, watch him choose a conservative from the South. If this scenario plays out, I can easily see a Romney-Sanford ticket in 2012.

- Huckabee wins Iowa once again, with Romney finishing a close second. Romney goes on to narrowly defeat Palin in New Hampshire, with Huckabee finishing a respectable third. Romney then comes back to win Nevada, but it's a close contest for South Carolina between Huckabee and Sanford. If Huckabee beats Sanford in South Carolina, watch for a Huckabee sweep in the South on Super Tuesday. If Romney fails to win Iowa, the victor in Florida would be anyone's guess. At the point, I'd assume that the Florida primary would be an incredibly close contest between Romney and Palin. If Palin wins, she may do better than I suspect. However, if Romney wins, he will replicate McCain's path to the nomination in 2008. My point with this scenario: If Huckabee wins Iowa, then it will be a race for the nomination through, and perhaps beyond, Super Tuesday. This will most likely result in a decent-sized Obama win.

On the other hand, I can see an early coronation of Romney resulting in a similar Obama win (as it was in 2008, 53-46, approximately 365-173). However, Romney's nomination would probably result in better numbers for the Republicans in 2012 than 2008 in states where Mormons are prevalent - Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Eastern California.

A final point: I feel that Palin will be the Howard Dean of 2012. She'll probably have the masses and the money, but she will not have the turnout that Romney will have.

As everyone has mentioned, we are still three years away, but these, in my opinion, are the most likely 2012 primary scenarios.

Anonymous said...

If Sarah does awesome in the 2012 debates I don't think anyone could stop her.

she has to much charisma