Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s opening of the door to a 2014 race against Sen. Mark Begich (D) has fueled hours of debate and discussion about whether she might actually do it and whether she would win if she did.
News flash: Palin isn’t going to run. Or, if she does, it would be a break from all of her other actions from the time she emerged in political life when she was elected governor in 2006.
“Giving up her current lucrative career may be hard given a less than certain outcome in the race,” said Terry Nelson, a veteran Republican operative who has done work in Alaska. “And a losing campaign won’t help her.”
Let’s start with Palin’s own thoughts on the possibility of the race. “I’ve considered it, because people have requested me considering it,” she told radio host Sean Hannity. “But I’m still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that … there will be some new blood, new energy, not just kind of picking from the same old politicians in the state.”
That’s the luke-est of lukewarm acknowledgments when it comes to considering a candidacy. Basically what Palin is saying is this: “Yes, I am aware that there is a Senate race in Alaska. Yes, people have asked me about it. No, I haven’t totally and completely ruled it out.”
That’s pretty thin gruel. Particularly when you consider Palin’s past time in elected office. Remember that Palin resigned the governorship of Alaska just halfway through her term — a sign that her commitment to serving as a politician in elected office just isn’t all that strong. And, Palin not only passed on running for president in 2012 but has bypassed runs for various other offices for which she has been mentioned since she was John McCain’s vice presidential nominee in 2008.
Then there is the fact that while Palin is a hero to some conservatives nationally, her numbers in Alaska aren’t all that stellar. A poll conducted by Harper Polling, a GOP-aligned auto-dial operation, showed Palin in a statistical dead heat with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in a hypothetical Republican Senate primary in 2014. Then there is a survey from PPP, a Democratic auto-dial pollster, that showed Alaskans with a less than favorable view of their former governor.
“It’s nice to be wooed and Sarah has a passionate and loyal following that would back her candidacy with enthusiasm,” said Penny Lee, a Democratic lobbyist and Alaska native. “But, she will need to determine how much of her support is national and how much is local.”
Nelson was blunter. “Governor Palin’s relationship with Alaska voters is more complicated than people may know,” he said. “Many voters, Republicans included, did not approve of her resignation from office and her image has taken a hit.”
Whatever you think of Palin, you have to give her this: She is a genius marketer of the “Sarah Palin” brand. She has turned herself into a celebrity. She is a well-compensated speaker, author and now, again, Fox News Channel political analyst.
And, to Nelson’s point above, Palin knows that the worst thing for that brand would be to return to the political arena as a candidate and lose. To run would be to risk the cachet and marketability she has built up in conservative circles. And Palin is plenty smart enough to know that.