Thursday, June 25, 2009

Palin for President?

The sad and sordid business of the Governor of South Carolina and his Argentinean mistress has done wonders for Sarah Palin’s complexion. She’s smiling and many republicans are miserable. Governor Mark Sanford, who resigned as Chair of the Republican Governors, was a real contender for the republican presidential nomination for 2012. Now he is out, leaving Palin in a stronger position.

As the conservative commentator David Frum observes, the republican party has a long history of turning to the person who finished second in the republican primaries during the previous season. They did so for McCain, Dole and GHW Bush and could well do so again for Mitt Romney. But Romney never achieved the profile, followership and sense of passion that Palin had when she ran as McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate. He’s smarter, but not as popular.

Palin is not exactly the great communicator in terms of comprehension, eloquence and clarity. But she speaks with passion and humour, seems to connect with a section of the working class and the republican party and speaks with a clear conservative voice. She is not well read or entrepreneurial in the same league as Romney, but she is a populist.

Palin also knows too little about too many things to win at this point – she has nothing to say about the financial regulatory regime needed to ensure that the financial meltdown does not repeat itself, she has no real foreign policy understanding and he views about many issues are just naïve. But the primaries are two years away and the election itself closer to three. There is time for her to develop a stanace of these issues and to learn her lines.

Palin against Obama would be a real test of liberal socialist thinking and right wing conservatism – a test that will change political rhetoric in American for some time. It will be fiery, abrasive and divisive.

Palin will have a lot to go after. By the time of the election, US debt will be close to fourteen trillion dollars and it will be clear that the Obama administration will not have a firm enough plan to tackle it. The government will be intruding in more and more aspects of people’s lives as a result of a raft of liberal legislation Obama, Pelosi and the democratic party have in mind. Climate change legislation will be having a negative impact on the economy as well as a significant impact on the energy bills of families. There will be no solution to the Middle East crisis and the US will still be in Afghanistan and involved in Iraq. While some changes to health care will have been made, they will fall short of the expectations Obama has allowed to build for this reform. Rather than “yes we can”, the republican’s will be chanting “was that it?”.

On the other side, Obama will have Palin the fumbler, Palin the public service reducer and Palin the wild-card on foreign policy. He will beat here on communication, but she will challenge him on his connection to real people and the real issues he cares about.

It will all come down to the two political machines and the extent to which they can leverage their candidates strength to get the vote out. Many democrats may think there is no real contest and may think the voting is all over before the voting starts – they would be mistaken. The machines have to work like a charm to get the vote committed and out.

What should worry Americans is both this choice and the question “who is behind Palin?”. If she does become the candidate – and we are two years away from knowing – she will need a strong running mate and an exceptionally smart backroom team. It will be this backroom team the US elects if she wins the Presidential election.
The worst thing the Obama team can do is wish Palin as the candidate and then take a victory for granted. She may be a loose cannon and nowhere near as strong an orator as Obama, but she has passion and build fierce loyalty. Many voters may well be disillusioned with Obama by 2012 – she will look so completely different from him that it may give a real option for voting.

All Palin needs now is for Romney to admit that he has a conservative conscience and a liberal sex life and she’d be home and dry as the nominee.

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