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Monday Fix

The Monday Fix: Winners and Losers as Palin Leaves Office

Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, on election night last year. She may be aiming for more time on the national stage.
Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, on election night last year. She may be aiming for more time on the national stage. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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By Chris Cillizza
Monday, July 6, 2009

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to resign at the end of this month is one of the most surprising, perplexing and just plain fascinating moves from a national politician in recent memory.

As such, it produces any number of consequences -- intended and otherwise -- in the political world. (Like it or not, Palin is a prime mover on the national scene; she acts and others react.)

In the wake of Palin's announcement Friday, the Fix reached out to a handful of senior-level strategists in both parties for their assessment of who won and, more deliciously, who lost as a result of the Palin bombshell.

Winners

Mark Sanford: Just when it looked as if the South Carolina governor was headed -- whether he liked it or not -- toward a resignation announcement, a fellow Republican chief executive swooped in and diverted the attention of every political reporter in the country. Timing is everything in politics, and Sanford benefited from a very fortunate bit of it. Can he survive? Perhaps -- unless he decides to conduct another confessional interview with a news outlet.

Mitt Romney: The Republican Party establishment worries openly about the prospect of a matchup between Palin and President Obama, believing that such a showdown would result in a reelection landslide for the Democrat. That fear could well rally institutional support behind the former Massachusetts governor, who, despite what he says, is running for the nomination in 2012.

Don Young: The ascension of Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell to the governorship removes a potential primary challenger to the embattled Republican House member. Young defeated Parnell by 152 votes in the 2008 GOP primary, and Parnell was considering another run. With Parnell now ensconced as governor, Young is likely to face an easier path to reelection, despite the constant swirl of ethics trouble around him.

Fred Malek: Malek, a major player in Republican money circles, has emerged as Palin's most prominent supporter and defender in recent weeks. Malek has also been working with the soon-to-be-former Alaska governor to introduce her to the smart set in Washington; he recently organized a foreign-policy-themed lunch at Palin's request in which the guests included former secretary of defense Frank Carlucci and former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott.

Losers

Mike Huckabee: With Palin now looking more and more like a 2012 candidate, there is no obvious slot in the field for the former Arkansas governor. Huckabee and Palin share a base among social conservatives, but she is the more beloved figure among that crowd and will probably gobble up all the oxygen among that wing of the party. Huckabee, however, has repeatedly rebuffed national Republicans' attempts at recruiting him for a Senate bid over the past few elections and seems to have his heart set on another run for president.

Alaska: Without Palin in office, the state's profile will drop significantly. Of course, given that Palin's presence as governor had proved to be a huge distraction within the state, Alaskans could well wind up as winners.

The Burdens She Shed

Several weeks before Palin resigned, the Fix made the case for why she shouldn't run for reelection in 2010. The key points from the post are excerpted below:

-- Geography is destiny. From a logistical point of view, being from Alaska is a huge hurdle for Palin's national ambitions. The state is four hours behind East Coast time and takes the better part of a day to travel to or from. That means that Palin, if she is committed to running for reelection, can't simply pop into Iowa or New Hampshire for the day.

-- Not a good time to be governor: While every politician in the country wanted to be a governor earlier this decade (budget surpluses, a chance to innovate), the political landscape has shifted as the economy has collapsed. Governors face serious political peril as a result -- with voters almost certain to be unhappy about the measures that their chief executives will need to take to close budget gaps. Palin is not immune; she drew heavy criticism for instituting a hiring freeze for the state government in January.

-- Building a machine: Palin has begun -- in fits and starts -- to build a national political apparatus of the sort required to run for president. But she has met with trouble at nearly every corner, with miscommunication between her team in Alaska and her team in Washington. The best way to win over the GOP's smart set is to make a few savvy hires for her political action committee. The only way for Palin to do that is to spend more time in Washington, not only hiring smart operatives but also just chatting with neutral GOP strategists about how she should be positioning herself and what she can do to remake her image.

14 DAYS: Former president Bill Clinton raises cash for New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) as a thank-you for her support of wife Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential candidacy. Eyebrows are raised -- Maloney is challenging White House-backed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in next year's Democratic primary.

18 DAYS: Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) travels to Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- stoking 2012 speculation. But when will Palin go to the Hawkeye State?


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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